Norman Bailey was the first player to get more than ten England caps which was no mean feat in the days when there were only four international football teams, somewhat limiting the chances of gaining caps!
In those days professionalism was only just entering the game and it was stronger in the north of England, where it was a way out of factory work, with amateurism remaining stronger in the south. Bailey was a solicitor and thus able to afford to be an amateur, playing initially with Old Westminsters and then Clapham Rovers. However, club ties were not as strong as they were today, apart from anything else the League had not yet been formed and the FA Cup was only in its sixth year, so there was less of a problem with people turning out for a number of different clubs.
Bailey’s first cap came while he was with Westminster School, an away game with Scotland, where England were roundly beaten 7-2. At that time the team was selected from trials held before each match, so for anyone to retain their place in the team they had to be consistently good at those trials. Reports on these matches are hard to come by these days but we do know that Bailey was very well respected in the game, playing in defence at half-back.
Debut for Wales
He kept his place for the next game, early in 1879, which was Wales’ first ever international. Wales were two goals down at the break but pulled one back in the second half, a narrow win for England (in those days) at 2-1. Bailey was enjoying success at club level too, reaching the 1879 FA Cup final with Clapham Rovers, only to lose to Old Etonians. But they returned to win it outright the next year, defeating Oxford University. At international level Bailey featured in most of the games, missing a couple against Wales in 1880 and 1881, but then when he returned, in 1881, it was as captain.
Captain for the First Time
His debut in the captain’s role must have been as disappointing as his international debut, as Scotland walloped England once more, 1-6, and to make matters worse, this time it was at home, at the Kennington Oval in London.Bailey missed the next international, a thirteen goal thrashing of Ireland, whose turn it was to make their international debut, Edward Bambridge of Swifts (another team that Bailey played for) taking the captain’s armband.
Birth of the Home Championship
The 1883-84 season saw the introduction of the Home Championship, with teams from Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England competing in a round-robin tournament to decide the best team in the British Isles. This was a natural development from the friendlies that had been played between the four teams, in fact the only teams that had not played each other by that time were Scotland and Ireland.
Starter for Ten
The first match of the inaugural tournament England v Ireland, in Belfast again, Ireland losing 1-8. For Bailey though, this was a landmark game as it was his tenth cap, the first player to reach that milestone. He played in the next match, against Wales, and scored his only official goal in a 4-0 win at the Racecourse ground in Wrexham. Some sources also have him down for England’s third goal in the 5-4 defeat of Scotland in 1879 but the FA register this as an own-goal by the Scots goalkeeper, Robert Parlane.
Consistent to the End
From then on until his final game in 1887, Bailey was present in the England side as captain, except for three matches against Ireland. His final game was another defeat by the Scots, this time at Blackburn, but at least the score was only 2-3.At the end of his international career Bailey had captained England for 15 of his 19 caps, and had won eight, lost eight and drawn three of the matches he played in. He carried on working in football after the end of his playing days, becoming a vice-president of the FA.