How rejection helped Doncaster Rovers sign a better version of Owen Bailey

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Rejected by Doncaster Rovers as a trialist two years ago, Owen Bailey admits it took him a while to get over the disappointment.

Whether he was good enough – Rovers were relegated the following season and recorded their lowest league finish in 20 years last term, while midfielder Bailey excelled with non-league Gateshead in that time – we will never know.

But one thing is clear in his mind the second time around: “I’m definitely ready.”

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Now 24, Bailey was one of a number of trialists vying to impress Richie Wellens in the summer of 2021.

Doncaster Rovers midfielder Owen Bailey.Doncaster Rovers midfielder Owen Bailey.
Doncaster Rovers midfielder Owen Bailey.

He had not long recovered from two serious knee injuries that kept him sidelined for 18 months and curtailed his progress with the Magpies when a first-team opportunity had reportedly been close.

The body blow of another rejection hit hard.

"I was someone who was so hard on myself after games, he says, “Even coming on trial here and not getting anything, I was so disappointed.

"It took a lot to pick myself up from that. Not many people know that, but that’s the way it was.”

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A former captain of Newcastle’s Under-21s, Bailey had to go on trial again, this time at Gateshead, then in the National League North, to prove his worth.

A move into non-league is no doubt humbling for any former Premier League youngster – and a bleak prospect for plenty.

But it proved to be a blessing for Bailey, who starred in his new surroundings.

"I don’t think you could measure how much I’ve improved, on and off the field," he says.

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"Going to Gateshead, I played with a lot of my friends, but the staff there were unbelievable and helped me with my mindset.

"It gave me an unbelievable platform to play men’s football week in, week out. It gave us the platform to come here.”

How does he reflect on that rejection from Rovers now he’s back?

"It would have been interesting to see how I got on.

"The club went through a tough time that year when I didn’t get in, so you never know how things would have panned out.

"But I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason.

"The two years I had were amazing and it’s put us in a position now where I’m definitely ready.”