FOOTBALL: FAN'S EYE VIEW

No 210 Bath City
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The Independent Online
I suppose it sounds naive, but I assume that you support your local team. That's what I did as a youngster when Dad took me to watch Swindon Town. The problem comes, of course, when you move - you have to change allegiances. The journey which started at the County Ground has taken me to Boothferry Park for Hull City, Frome Road for Trowbridge Town and now I've ended up with Bath City at Twerton Park.

My younger son sees it differently. He is a confirmed Liverpool supporter, and for much of the time walks around wearing a red shirt emblazoned with the name McManaman. Sometimes he comes with me, but for him Twerton doesn't have the glamour. It's his age and culture. When he leaves home, a Premiership football team will be the main factor in choosing which college to go to. Top grade football certainly didn't affect my decision to marry: my wife comes from Chesterfield.

So why do I go? Primarily because they would miss me if I didn't. Bath's average Conference crowd is five or six hundred and my being there makes a difference.

But we Bath City supporters have our moments. For example, in the FA Cup Paul Batty's glorious drive that put out Hereford, beating Cardiff at Ninian Park with Deion Vernon showing he could do more than run exceptionally fast, and an honourable draw at Stoke before being roundly beaten in the replay.

We have our drama, too. Someone set the main stand alight one night and grown men cried. There is the thrill of glory by association, players who have gone on to better things - Welsh international Paul Bodin of World Cup penalty miss fame, Jason Dodd at Southampton and the venerable Tony Book of Manchester City. A whole library of Books has played for Bath and in local leagues. Malcolm Allison cut his managerial teeth here. We have good years and bad years: this year is a bad year, but we're still the top non-League team in the West Country, much to the annoyance of Yeovil Town.

The ground itself is a good one by Conference standards, thanks largely to the money brought in by having Bristol Rovers as lodgers for the past few years. You can still walk all the way round it during matches if you want to, although I'm probably too grown up to go and stand behind the goal we're attacking.

One improvement I regret is the removal of our two clocks. For some years we had one clock on the main stand that was stopped at 4.25, and one at the Bristol End which kept perfect time but was always 30 minutes slow. Thus we had the paradox of one clock that was right twice a day but you could not use to tell the time, and one which was never right but on which you could rely absolutely.

When Rovers were tenants at Twerton, my son and I went to watch them, even though you had to choose which section of the ground to go in, you had to arrive before kick-off time and there was chanting and singing. But my localness thesis is supported by the fact that we don't feel the pull to go and see them now they are back in Bristol.

Whether or not City are relegated, we will have Dr Martens' football at Twerton next year. Trowbridge, with ex-City stalwart Tony Ricketts as manager and Grantley Dicks, Julian's less refined brother, at left- back, are going to be City's tenants while a replacement for Frome Road is built. Once again I will have two local teams. In the tradition, I will have to support them both.

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