Rough Guide to... Bath City

Cod Almighty | Article

by Pat Bell

12 August 2010

Well, hello there, Bath City. Let's talk about you.
In 1865, Bath Football Club was formed. They are among the most distinguished teams in the history of English... rugby. Association football struggled to get a foothold in the city. Although some sources claim Bath City, starting up as Bath AFC, were formed in 1889, it seems this team lasted just three seasons before they too took up rugby. The modern club was formed in 1900, adopting the name Bath Railway in 1902 before they became Bath City.

In 1921, Bath joined the Southern League, most of whose old members had been absorbed into the new third division of the Football League, and won it for the first time in 1960. Between those dates Bath had 'a good war'. Several armed service camps were located near the city, and guest players such as Vic Woodley, Stan Mortensen and Bill Shankly helped Bath to the Football League's second division north title in 1944. Bath have reached the third round of the FA Cup six times, winning 12 ties against League clubs, including victories over local-ish rivals-ish Exeter (twice), Newport, Cardiff and Hereford. Their historical rivalry, in abeyance since the clubs' paths diverged in the last decade, was with Yeovil Town, for the pride of Somerset.

That contest having been lost, at least for the time being, the supporters of Bath take pride in quieter, smaller things, like not having bitter rivalries, and their home since 1931, Twerton Park. Before then, the club had shared the Lambridge Ground with showjumping events. In the absence of any knowledge, one can only hope their groundsman earned the highest honours football can bestow; as if preparing a surface fit for football after horses have been galloping around on it weren't enough, he also regularly had to fill in the hole made for a water jump.

The play-off match against WokingFans cram in as City host Woking in last season's Conference South play-off final. The result was 1-0 to Bath, the attendance 4,865. Photo: Nick (cc by 2.0)

The covered terraces of Twerton Park convey the traditional British footballing experience, as captured by their North American blogger Nedved:

"When you come to a City match you can stand within a few feet of the pitch. You will be able to see the expressions on the players' faces and hear them curse when they mistime a pass. You can throw them the ball when it goes out of play and you can almost feel the impact of boot to ball on corner kicks if you stand in the right place."

Put it like that and you can see why Ken Loach, director of films from Kesthrough to Looking for Eric, should be a major shareholder in the club.

In 1978, Bath won their second Southern League title, and applied to join the Football League. The League clubs agreed that it was indeed time to give football greater prominence in an area dominated by rugby. They elected Wigan.

Do you come here often?
Bath City were founder members of the Conference (then called the Alliance) in 1979 and, apart from one season back in the Southern League, remained there until 1997. In 1985, they finished runners-up, and made another unsuccessful bid for Football League membership. After 1997 they went into something of a decline, and were arguably eclipsed for a season or two, if only in the national consciousness by Team Bath, the university team.

However, Bath City won the Southern League title in 2007. And in May of this year, they regained their place in the national division, beating Woking 1-0 in the Conference South play off final, leaving the Bath Chronicle to report that "Players and fans celebrated together in front of the main stand as the realisation dawned that they would be playing the likes of Luton Town, Oxford United and Grimsby Town next season."

Go on, make yourself watch it again

Haven't I seen you somewhere before?
Grimsby and Bath have never met, not in a league game. Of course there may have been the odd cup game, now and then.

What can we do when the sun goes down?
Bath City have adopted the nickname the Romans, as though the image of privileged young Regency ladies taking the waters and enjoying tea was not quite martial enough for a football team. To this day, you can indeed take the waters, enjoy afternoon tea or visit Roman remains.

Or you could eschew one set of cultural clichés and embrace another by behaving like a typical football fan and going to the pub.

The Royal Crescent, BathA section of Bath's famous Royal Crescent. Photo: Catherine Joll (cc by-nc-nd 2.0)

Vital statistics
Last season
League placing: 4th, Conference South, P42 W20 D12 L10 F66 A46 Pts75
Home and away rankings: 5th and 5th in the division
Average attendance: 633 (rank: 8th in the division, 133rd in English leagues)
Mileage travelled: 2,350

This season
Squad size: 20 (as at 8 August)
Odds on winning the league: 100/1 (Blue Square)

Do say
"Well played in the FA Cup last year – the better side won."

Don't say
"Rubbish ground."

Do you know Bath? We want your recommendations for local pubs, cafés or B&Bs, to feature in our pre-match factfiles during next season. Use theCod Almighty feedback form to send them in – or to share any other thoughts you might have about our Rough Guide to the Conference.