Sun | Oct 17, 2021

‘It’s an amazing feeling’

Bailey scores, sets up another in 21-minute dream Villa home debut

Published:Sunday | September 19, 2021 | 4:35 PMAudley Boyd - Sunday Gleaner Writer

Aston Villa’s Leon Bailey (right) scores during the English Premier League match between Aston Villa and Everton at Villa Park, Birmingham, England, yesterday. Villa won 3-0.
Aston Villa’s Leon Bailey (right) scores during the English Premier League match between Aston Villa and Everton at Villa Park, Birmingham, England, yesterday. Villa won 3-0.
Bailey
Bailey
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HIS FAMILY was in the stands watching at Villa Park. The fans, excited at what they had seen prior, were shouting “Bailey, Bailey, Bailey” as he was about to be introduced into the game as a 61st minute sub. And, to top it off, Jamaican striker Leon Bailey capped a remarkable home debut for Villa by contributing to one goal, then scoring another, in their English Premier League football match against Everton yesterday.

He was later substituted at the 82nd minute, walking off with an injury that coach Dean Smith assessed as a “tight thigh”, quad-related that never appeared very serious. But not even the injury could dampen Bailey’s spirit.

“It means so much to me to be able to accomplish what I did in 21 minutes. It is such an amazing feeling to have my family there watching it, to have the fans chanting my name when I was going on, it’s such a great feeling, words can’t even explain,” said Bailey in a post-game interview carried live on Rush channel barely minutes after the game.

“The fans have been really great tonight and it’s perfect to be able to get the goal for them tonight, I feel accomplished that I’ve welcomed myself here as a Villa player,” continued the Jamaican winger.

His family, including his newborn son, was in the stands and Bailey made sure he got their attention with a celebratory gesture towards them at game’s end.

“My son is here, he’s a great part of my life. He’s motivated me in so many ways and my girlfriend, of course, being the backbone for me, my brother being supportive as always. It’s always nice to have them there and, for me, going out there tonight, I felt comfortable, I felt like I needed to do it for them as much as I needed to do it for the team and of course, the fans, they played an amazing part tonight,” Bailey revered.

HOMAGE TO GREGG

Bailey, who joined the English team this season from Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen, also paid homage to a dear Jamaican friend, Steffi Gregg, by taking off his Aston Villa jersey to reveal an undershirt with the words typed in all caps – ‘FOREVER LOVE STEFFI GREGG’. Another Jamaica-born player in the EPL, Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling, had paid a similar tribute to Steffie Gregg after scoring a goal for his team the previous week.

Gregg, the niece of popular Jamaican dancehall music producer ‘Rvssian’, and sister of Kyle Gregg, a popular Jamaican race car driver, passed earlier this month after suffering complications associated with the COVID-19 virus.

The strike that led to Bailey’s emotional outpouring was one to behold. Set free on the left side with a long, diagonal pass, Bailey headed the ball forward then took his time as the ball continued bouncing forward, before unleashing a rocket from just inside the box.

“In the moment, I just said ‘I’m going to smash the ball’ because obviously it was bouncing a lot, so you know those ones are a bit difficult. I took the time to be more relaxed, comfortable and more focused, to ensure that I actually hit it properly, and that’s why it took me a time to really be focused, to ensure that I hit it properly,” was how the 24-year-old striker recounted his 75th-minute goal.

Bailey was also involved in Aston Villa’s second goal, in rather bizarre circumstances when Everton’s Lucas Digne diverted his corner kick into his own net to give Villa a 2-0 lead.

“He put the corner in for the goal and he scored the third goal,” assessed Villa coach, Dean Smith.

“It’s really special. He’s a really good player, that’s why we’ve got him here at the football club. But, on top of that, he’s a really good lad as well. The lads love him in the dressing room, he’s so humble but a really good person. We know that he’s going to be a special talent for us,” said Smith.

audley.boyd@gleanerjm.com