“We want to put something really special together” - former Town skipper Baker hoping to arrange memorial match in honour of team-mate James Dean
Former FC Halifax Town captain Tom Baker is hoping to set-up The James Dean Memorial Trophy, an annual game between between FC Halifax Town and Chorley, in memory of his team-mate.
James’ death was confirmed earlier this month, triggering an outpouring of tributes from family and friends for the 35-year-old.
And now his former team-mates from Halifax and Chorley, led by Baker, are hoping to arrange a memorial match this summer to celebrate James’ life and help raise funds for his family.
“I’ve set up a WhatsApp group with all the Halifax players from 2009 to 2012, which is when Deano was there, and the same has been done with Chorley, which I think was 2013 to 2015,” explained Baker, who played alongside James throughout his time at The Shay.
“They’re two clubs where Deano had his best spells and his most success, and was adored by both clubs and both sets of fans.
“I’ve out the idea to everyone and they’ve all jumped on board and are really excited about it.
“I’m in discussion with Halifax with regards to holding it at The Shay, it’s something we could look to do annually and rotate the ground each year so The Shay one year and Victory Park the next.
“Both teams will be managed by the managers from that time, so Neil Aspin and Garry Flitcroft, and the same staff if possible.
“The squads will consist of players from that time too.
“We want to put something really special together, a really big day. We want it to be a proper matchday, so we want a competitive game, we want to fill the stadium and get as many supporters there as we can, from both clubs and neutrals.
“There’s a lot of work and a lot of things that need to fall into place, but hopefully we can get loads of sponsorship and loads of fundraising, hospitality, auctions, raffles, and everything that’s raised can go to Deano’s sons.
“Hopefully the family can be there on the day. My dream, and what I’ve discussed with the lads, is imagining Deano’s family and Deano’s boys there in a packed out stadium and the fans singing the famous ‘Deano, Deano’ chant.
“I’ve got goosebumps talking about it now, I think it’d be amazing.”
Baker is hoping the match will take place at some point this summer, but says any date is still to be decided.
“It needs to happen at a time when there’s no restrictions for supporters,” he said.
“I’m thinking maybe August would be great, but there’s a lot that’s got to fall into place.
“Obviously Deano’s family are still grieving, so we’ve got to be considerate to them, but when the time’s right and everything can be done.
“Some people in the Chorley group have spoken about doing sponsored runs and stuff like that, so hopefully we can do as much fundraising as possible.”
Paying tribute to his former team-mate, Baker said: “To me, he was just a great guy, that’s what Deano was.
“I’ve come across so many people in football, and not everybody you get on with or you like, but Deano was just a great guy. You’d struggle to find someone who didn’t like him.
“He was a fantastic player, and a fantastic dad, and a fantastic family man.
“He was just a really, really good man, and he’s going to be sorely missed. It’s tragic.
“But my main focus now, and for the other players from both clubs, is to celebrate what he did, his legacy, and help the family out as much as we possibly can.”
Another former Halifax team-mate, Mark Bower, who captained the club to promotion during the 2010-11 season, said: “I only played with him for a year but what a year it was.
“We played so well that year, it was such a strong team, and I think the biggest compliment I can give him as a player is that he played up-front alongside Jamie Vardy and Lee Gregory and he did not look out of place.
“Playing alongside two players like that, he was as important to our team as them, and when you look at what they’ve gone on to achieve, it just shows what a player he was.
“He was the life and soul, we had a lot of nights out and he’d be lively, and a real character in the dressing room.
“I came up against him a few times since then as well and he was a real thorn in the sides of my teams.
“A really good player, possibly could have gone on and played a bit higher, but he served all the clubs he played for really well and I know that, since Halifax reformed, he was probably the first cult hero of that era among the supporters.”
On the memorial match, Bower said: “I think it would give people a chance to show their respect and ultimately, he’s left a family behind him and they need looking after, so if we can raise some awareness of what’s gone on and what he’s left behind, and if we can help at all in any little way possible that helps his family out, then that’s the aim.
“If we can do it this summer it would be absolutely brilliant.
“Tom Baker and some of the lads are working extremely hard to try and get things sorted out.
“It’d be nice to have it at The Shay, I’m sure there’d be so many Halifax fans that would like to pay their respects, and clubs on the other side of the Pennines where he played as well.
“It’s pulled everyone together, if there’s one good thing to come from it hopefully it’s that it’s brought people together who can help his family.”