Bath City FC are one of England's most senior non league football clubs, having originally being formed as Bath AFC in 1899. The old Roman city of Bath is one the country's foremost tourist attraction, located thirteen miles to the east of Bristol in the West Country.
Bath originally played their matches at the Belvoir Ground playing in local football. In 1909 they entered the Western League as Bath City FC. By 1921 City moved up to the Southern League, where they would compete in the various divisions for the next fifty eight years. In 1932 the club moved into Twerton Park (originally Innox Park) in the west of the city.
During World War Two City played in the temporary Division Two Northern Division, where they competed with the likes of Liverpool, Everton and Manchester United. 'The Romans', as the club are sometimes called, went on to lift the title. However when peacetime resumed they returned to the Southern League.
In 1960 the club were crowned champions with Tony Book as one the prominent stars. They also reached the FA Cup Third Round after defeating Millwall and Notts County before Brighton & Hove Albion ended their run in front of a record gate of 18,020 at Twerton Park. This emulated their achievements of reaching the same stage in 1932 and 1935. Malcolm Allison came in as manager for a couple of years in the early 60's before moving onto Torronto City, Plymouth Argyle and then Manchester City. He took Book with him to each club as his captain. After this then had a period where they were relegated and then promoted on several occassions.
In 1978 City won a second title and played in the Anglo Italian Trophy. Bath nearly won enough votes to be accepted into the Football League, but had to console themselves wityh founder membership of the Alliance Premier League (later the Football Conference). In 1985 they finished as runners up and as champions Wealdstone's Lower Mead ground didn't meet the required stipulations, City were allowed to apply to join the Football League. This was just a couple of years before automatic promotion was introduced. Unfortunately City just missed out at the vote once again.
In 1986 Bristol Rovers were forced out of their Eastville home and came to an arrangement to share Twerton Park. This led to improvements being made to the ground as at one point it hosted second tier League football. Rovers eventually moved back to Bristol after ten years.
|The temporary stand erected at the Bristol End in the late 80's|
after the Main Stand was damaged by an arson attack by Bristol City fans
In 1989 the club were relegated to the Southern League, but returned after just one season after finishing runners up. They suffered a further demotion in 1997 and this time it took nine years to progress as after restruction of the league's City won a play off final to reach Conference South.
In 2008 popular manager John Relish moved upstairs to concentrate on the development of a football academy. His assistant Adie Britton took up the reigns. In May 2010 City beat Woking 1-0 in the play off final to reach the Football Conference. The club found the going tough competing with bigger clubs with larger budgets. City continued to produce their own talent.
City were relegated after a poor 2011-12 campaign, to take up a place in Conference South.
Bath City FC will play in Conference South in the 2013-14 season.
Bath City 2 Newpoert County 2 (Tuesday 3rd January 2011) Football Conference (att: 1,147)
After working nights shifts over New Year I had a couple of evenings spare to recover. Fixtures were thin on the ground as most teams played the day before or on New Years Day. However, the fixture at Bath was perfect as it was somewhere I wanted to go, but ideally when I didn't have to be up early the following morning.
I booked my travel tickets well in advance to secure the bargain prices. I got a seat on a National Express coach for £8 and a return train for £8.50. The problem of course with advanced bookings can be if the game is postponed because of the weather. The West Country had been hit by heavy rain around the time, so I was very relieved to check the club website after my sleep to find the game on.
The coach journey was long, but first class. The lady driver was informative and friendly, which was rare for a start for someone in that occupation. We called at several drop off points and had to contend with the closure of the Hammersmith Flyover. Despite this we were only twenty minutes late arriving into Bath Bus Station.
It was very windy with a nip in the air, but as I was having a bit of a fitness campaign I decided to walk along Lower Bristol Road to Twerton Park. I knew it was around a couple of miles, but my training must have been paying off as I was there in less than thirty minutes. I went past a couple of pubs as I preferred to give my money to the club. I had also read that Charlie's supporters bar served real ale. The clubhouse was named after Charlie Fleming the former Sunderland, Scotland and Bath City stalwart. Twerton itself had a villagy feel about it with a parade of shops and a chip shop as well as the pubs.
The bar did serve a couple of real ales. I went for the excellent Palmer's Copper Ale. An old copy of Charles Buchan's Football Monthly with Fleming on the cover was framed at the end of the bar. There was plenty of staff behind the counter and a railed off queueing system. TVs were showing Sky Sports News. I was immediately impressed. I had a second pint and put on my fixed odds accumulator on which I predicted an away win for County in this relegation six pointer.
I went outside and into the home end terrace for £14 and obtained a good programme for £2.50. To get to the terracing you have to walk up a slope. The ground is on the northern slope of the Avon Valley and therefore built into a hill. The pitch sloped down to the corner by the turnstiles. Once inside I straight away liked the ground. It was proper no nonsence and old school.
The Main Stand stood back behind an open terrace. Beyond it was a newer seated stand reserved for away fans. There was a small terrace at the Bath End. Opposite was a good sized full length covered enclosure and the Bristol End had a decent sized open terrace for the visiting fans. The terracing had good chunky crush barriers and the arena was lit up by four old floodlight pylons.
As I was taking my photos I was greeted by Bladud the Pig, the City mascot who piched my cap while he posed for a picture. Bladud was named after the legendary king and founder of Bath, who’s pigs discovered the world-famous healing waters of the city. He entertained the younger fans throughout the night and put a smile on my face as well!
I was hungry by now so I sought out the refreshments. There was a franchise caterer near the entrance, but I plumped for the Supporters Club franchise under the roof. The pasty was tasty, if extrmely greasy and overpriced at £2.50. At least I knew the money was going to a good cause. The toilets on that side had the nice touch of a window so you never missed any of the action!
County, cheered on by a superb turnout of 430 traveling fans were on top to begin with despite kicking up the slope and into the wind. It was no surprise when they took the lead when a cross found its way onto the far post and Nat Jarvis pounced to fire home, to the delight of a few older Welshmen who opted to stand under cover in the home fans section. It looked like County were well on course at this stage,but City had other ideas. A fine shot from inside the box from Adam Connolly and then a tap in at the far post from Sean Canham courtesy of some poor defending sent the home side in ahead at the break. Just before the whistle for half time an announcement telling fans that Charlie's was closed until the end of the game was met by sarcastic boos, which made me laugh.
I had a walk around during the interval to really appeciate the whole of Twerton Park. I really was fond of the place. It was somewhere that modern stadiums would never replicate. It had some downfalls, but it oozed character. I tried to imagine it for a full house for a Bristol derby. I bet it was a real cauldron. I'd certainly been to a lot worse Football League grounds.
County came back out full of intent, but it was City who went further ahead on the break with a low shot into the corner from the edge of the box from Scott Murray. The pattern continued for the rest of the game. Newport put on pressure with the growing wind behind them, while Bath had short spells of counter attacking. The scoreline was reduced when Gary Warren headed home unmarked from a corner. City's keeper Jason Matthews looked a bit of a flapper on crosses and County seemed to sense it. Somehow the home goal wasn't breeched. I was urging County on for the good of my coupon, but to be honest I'd grown a soft spot for City by then, not least because of the friendly nature of the club.
There was some really nice touches about the place. The half time draw winners were clearly announced and their names given as well as been displayed on noticeboards around the ground (something plenty of other clubs would do well to copy). The man on the PA was clear and informative. I liked the way he thanked the away fans for their attendance and then read out how many of them there were. This was met by a round of applause by the City faithful. That's how the game should be in my opinion. The fans also had chance to vote for their man of the match by texting in.
An old boy on his way to the gents nearly relieved himself on the spot he was laughing so much, when a huge cheer went up as Matthews caught a cross at last. It wasn't just my assessment after all! A County sub missed an absolute sitter just before the end but it was not to be for The Exiles on the night. City's home win was greeted with a large roar.
I decided to head straight back into the city even though I had an hour before my train. The walk back took even less time with the wind at my back, but it was bitterly cold. I collected my rail ticket and then went off to buy a warming cuppa before the train. On board the empty service I sat near the refreshment car. Some Millwall fans went past laden with cans saying they needed one. I checked on the evening scores and found that they'd gone down to an injury time goal at Bristol City. They seemed decent enough lads, and there weren't too many of them. My other two scores on my selctions also came in, so only Newport let me down for £100, but after the disappointments of my let down the previous Saturday, it was small beer.
I eventually got in at 1.45am after having to wait for a night bus, but I wasn't bothered in the slightest. I'd had a super afternoon and evening away from London, and I found a ground that while going out of fashion, will also have a special place in this fans heart.