Studying Sports PR and Journalism at Staffordshire University, Lewis Deakin, who has followed the Boro ever since moving in with a Stevenage supporting housemate, caught up with former player Barry Hayles recently, and theStevenage legend spoke of his pride at his former club’s achievements.
Stevenage won promotion to the Football League in 2010 by beating Kidderminster Harriers 2-0 to go up as champions. This was 14 years after the club were denied promotion from the Conference due to ground irregularities. Hayles was an integral part of the Stevenage side that won the Conference title in the 1995/1996 season, remarkably scoring a goal every two games.
Six years later and further success followed for Stevenage in the 2011- 2012 season, as they defeated Torquay United 1-0 in the Play Off final.
The Boro’s back-to-back promotion successes were built on a tremendous defensive record. The best in the league in both of their promotion winning campaigns in the Conference and again in League Two.
Speaking about the rise of the club, Hayles said: “I am very proud of what Stevenage has achieved.
“I had a chance to rejoin them, when they won promotion from the Conference, but sadly it didn’t work out.”
The former Jamaican international was first spotted by ex Stevenage manager Paul Fairclough during a Middlesex vs Hertfordshire County Cup game.
Hayles recalls: “I played for Middlesex in a County Cup match. Paul, manager of Stevenage at the time, was also working with Middlesex and saw me there.”
This lead to Hayles making his mark as a striker by scoring 73 goals in 154 appearances for Stevenage.
The striker was ‘heartbroken,’ when the club were denied promotion to the Football League due to ground irregularities.
“I was disappointed for the team, the management and everyone at the club.
“To a certain extent I felt sorry for myself, as I was worried I’d never make it as a professional.”
However, Hayles dreams were about to come true as he earned a move to Bristol Rovers in 1997.
Hayles admits it was time to leave Stevenage, as his football career was beginning to take off.
He went on to make his mark in the world of football representing Fulham, Millwall, Plymouth, Sheffield United and a host of other teams in a 19 year career.
Pace, power and a never say die attitude has been essential to Hayles success in football. He had always been involved in football, thanks to the support of his two older brothers.
Hayles said: “I have two older brothers, and I played in their school football team so I was always tipped to become a footballer.”
The 41 year old currently at St Albans is taking his coaches badges, and he plans to stay in the game for many years to come.
Hayles said: “My longevity is due to staying injury free mostly and taking care of my body.
“I still have the will to win, when I lose that I will hang up my boots.”