THE man who helped smooth Sunderland AFC’s move from historic Roker Park to the Stadium of Light has died.
Fred Bailey, who served as stadium manager and then safety officer at the Black Cats’ former ground, passed away last week aged 78 after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
During his time in charge at the stadium, he worked alongside countless managers and chairmen.
Born in Whitburn, Mr Bailey and his family moved to Fulwell when he was 10.
After attending Grange Park School, he served his time as a pattern-maker at Sunderland Forge before a spell in the Army.
He then worked in a number of different jobs but in March 1972, Mr Bailey was successful in becoming stadium manager at Sunderland.
As well as working to keep fans and players safe for hundreds of games, Mr Bailey was also important in Roker Park staging cultural events such as when David Bowie played the venue as part of his Glass Spider tour in 1987.
He was then integral to the club moving from its then 99-year-old home of Roker Park to the Stadium of Light in the summer of 1997, helping with the implementation of a number of safety features.
Speaking at the family’s Barnes home, Mr Bailey’s son Andrew, 46, said: “I’m sure the move was very emotional for my dad, but he recognised that the cost and the surrounding houses was prohibitive for the club moving forward.”
In September of that year Mr Bailey retired from work and SAFC thanked him for his years of service with a special presentation from then-chairman Bob Murray at a home match with Middlesbrough.
During his time with SAFC, he struck up friendships with club stalwarts Kevin Ball, Jimmy Montgomery, Dick Malone and George Herd.
Andrew said: “At one point he was asked if he wanted to go to work at Newcastle and he was offered more money to go there as well.
“But he would never have gone to work for them with being a Sunderland fan.”
Despite his illness, Mr Bailey continued to attend matches, with his last game Sunderland’s famous 1-0 win over Manchester City on New Year’s Day 2012.
“It was great, and a great way for him to go out,” added Andrew.
A spokesman for Sunderland AFC said: “Naturally everybody at Sunderland AFC was saddened to hear of Fred’s death.
“He was an integral figure at Roker Park and had a significant input into the move to the Stadium of Light, of which the club will always remember.
“Our thoughts are with all of Fred’s family and friends at this difficult time.”
Mr Bailey, who had lived in Ashwood Court care home for the past few years, died on February 23.
He leaves behind his wife Ethel, 75, Andrew and his other son Kevin, 49, as well as four grandchildren.
A tribute to Mr Bailey appears in the programme for today’s Sunderland v Fulham Premier League game.
Mr Bailey’s funeral takes place on Monday at Sunderland Crematorium, starting at 2pm.
Those wanting to attend can do so wearing bright colours.
His wake will then be held at the Rosedene in Ashbrooke.