Friday, 16 April 2010

Bath City FC (England)

My minor obsession with the teams who play in black and white began a few years ago when I first stepped onto the terraces of Twerton Park - the historic home of Bath City FC. As an exiled West Ham fan in the West Country I'd turned into somewhat of a ground hopper, touring all the local grounds within easy rail travel distance in the search of some footballing thrills.

Living in Bristol but working in Bath, I'd pass City's ground on the train every day and always thought I'd have to make the trip one day. Indeed, my mate Jimmer at work had been badgering me to come along, saying that if I came once I'd be hooked for life. I chortled under my breath, thinking how quaint it was that someone apparently smart and grown up could get so obsessed by a team languishing in the Southern League.

But then one fateful Saturday in September I bit the bullet and went along - and it was one of the best decisions I've ever made. It was a meat and spuds early season game against the now sadly demised Kings Lynn, who held City to a slightly undeserved draw. But there was something about the ground, the players, but most of all the fans - seemingly sparse as they were - that instantly got under my skin... and as Jimmer warned, I was hooked.

I didn't go to every game straight off, but as the season progressed I became a more frequent visitor, and by the end of the term, as it became more apparent that the stripes were going to make promotion to the exhalted heights of the Blue Square South league - the second tier of Non-League football in England - I was even going to the away games too.

It was a great season to start following them, and the more I went, the more I discovered what in interesting club they were.

They formed way back in 1889 as Bath AFC, having a brief spell as Bath Railway before settling on the name Bath City for keeps a few years later. For much of their history Bath City have been in the upper echeolons of the non-league system, narrowly missing out on election to the Football League proper on a number of occasions - most notably in 1977 when as Southern League champions they missed out on a place in the big 92 by three measly votes to a little outfit called Wigan Athletic.

The stripes have got a grand FA Cup tradition too, having reached the fabled third round on no fewer than six occasions, beating full time opposition the like of Crystal Palace, Millwall, Notts County, Exeter City, Southend, Cardiff City, Hereford, and most recently fellow stripes Grimsby Town along the way.

Past players of note include the legendary Charlie Fleming, a Scottish international who had spells at Sunderland and East Fife, who scored a club record of 216 goals in 300 appearances. Former Blackpool and England ace Stan Mortensen had a spell in Twerton at the end of his career, and Jason Dodd, Tony Book, Paul Bodin and former Lavian international captain Andrejs Štolcers have also graced the hallowed turf.

There was also a young chap called Bobby Zamora, who spent an exciting month on loan to us from neighbours and one-time tennants Bristol Rovers back in the year 2000. His run of six games saw him bag eight goals, and marked him as true star for the future.

City also saw the greatest living Frenchman, Eric Cantona, visit the club in 2009. Sadly he didn't pull his boots on, but came to promote his film Looking For Eric, directed by staunch Stripes fan Ken Loach, who frequently holds premieres, benefits and film nights for the club.

For a little team who never quite made the big time Bath City have a long and proud history, and one of the most loyal, supportive and, to be fair, slightly bonkers fanbases in the country. If you're ever passing through town and there's a game on, make sure you get yourself down to Twerton Park. You might not see the kind of Rolls Royce football you see on the telly, but you'll experience a team with passion and grit, and share the terraces with a right friendly bunch.

Come on you City Boys!

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  1. Bloody 'ell Roy. You got a lot of spare time on your hands!
    Rich Bailey

  2. Nah mate, I just like to write!

  3. And what better subject than Bath City!
    Great to see us in the play-offs; can't wait for tuesday evening.
    Like the music blog, too. Beng Beng Cocktail looks like they're worth a listen to.
    [I'm currently listening to a lot of American Irish tinged punk: Mad Caddies, Dropkick Murphys, Dirty Filthy Mugs, Street Dogs et al]

  4. Hi Roy,

    My name is James Boyd and I am in the process of setting up a private physiotherapy practice in Bath. I have been working with the Bath City FC Academy (a couple of very promising players that will hopefully make the jump into the first team) and have been scouring the internet for suitable pictures to use on my website.
    I was curious if I could use the second picture on this page (taken from the corner of twerton park on matchday).

    Kind regards

    James Boyd

  5. Hey James - Sorry for the very late reply. I keep forgetting to check my comments!

    It's probably a bit late now, but you're very welcome to use the picture - although I must confess I didn't take it.

    Cheers mister!