It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The “quiet” time between Christmas and New Year; that clearly dead horse the day job will have you flog. Half the workforce is on leave and your email recipient list pings back the out-of-office replies like they’re going out of fashion. It’s business as normal, then, so we’re keen to make sure we keep up appearances. That’s why our Remember Them series is trudging on unabashed. It is almost fitting, too. Christmas is, after all, a time of nostalgia. So, how much do Bath City make you yearn for days gone by?
Bath City: Who Are They?
A club older than most, the tale of Bath City doesn’t quite stretch back as far as their Romans nickname might make you think. That said, it is (as we speak) a club 128 years in the making. Had just a few votes gone in their favour in 1978, we could’ve been sitting here talking about an established Football League outfit. Admittedly, however, that means we also might not have been sitting here talking about ’em at all. This is all irrelevant, of course. The Romans were unable to convince other League members they were worthy of election.
Up ’til then, Bath were non-league stalwarts. After forming as Bath AFC, they opted for Bath Railway in 1902 and then Bath City in 1908. It was at this point in time, too, that FCHD’s records swing into action; the Romans joining Western League Division Two for a slice of the competitive football pie. The main (and only?) highlight from their time in the competition, maybe, was finishing runners-up in the season before the First World War One. In 1921, they joined the Southern League English Section – but still competed in the Western League too.
Bath City didn’t kick the Western League into touch for good until 1939.
Here’s a semi-interesting fact for you: the Romans are the only semi-pro side to win a Football League trophy. During the Second World War Two, it appears they took part in a temporary Division Two North with the likes of Liverpool, Man United and Everton. And won it! It was back to the Southern League after the War, however. It took until 1960 for them to win their first proper title; a feat they were to repeat in 1978. After rejection by the League, they joined the Alliance Premier League as founder members; the forerunner to the Conference…
Bath City: Us And Them…
Before we cut to the chase, there would be yet another close encounter with the Football League; this time, in 1985. Conference champions Wealdstone weren’t allowed up due to a less-than-satisfactory stadium capacity, so fourth-placed Bath City were apparently given the chance to apply again. And fail, again. That loss was our history books’ gain. By the 1992-3 campaign, Boro’ were within striking distance of the non-league elite for the first time. And by this season, Bath had been relegated and promoted back to the Conference as well.
That last point is maybe irrelevant. Boro’ missed out on promotion in 1993, but we did have a small taste of life in the Conference that term. It came courtesy of the FA Trophy Fourth Qualifying Round, which brought Bath City to Broadhall Way for the first time. In an early display of our Cupset Potential, we saw off the supposedly superior side by two goals. It wasn’t long before the fixture became a regular thing, either. Just 18 months later, we met as equals in the Conference. And the Romans avenged that somewhat surprising Trophy defeat.
After that, it was one-way traffic for Boro’. We won four straight meetings as Cloughie’s side reached its peak: 3-0, 2-0, 2-1 and 2-1. The run came to a halt in December 1996; a goalless draw away the last league encounter before Bath narrowly lost their battle for survival at the end of the 1996-7 GM Vauxhall Conference campaign. And, yet, that isn’t the end of this tale. Even before the Romans were down, we took on one another two more times. For old time’s sake or just out of coincidence, it would come in the FA Trophy First Round.
It was honours even at their place; Boro’ and Bath drawing one-apiece. The replay indoors, however, was to be a more one-sided affair; Corey Browne with a hattrick as we ran out 6-1 winners. And, then, Bath were gone. Back into the Southern League. But it still isn’t the end of our now-getting-very-long tale. It’s 1999-00, and Dickie Hill’s Boro’ side are in a bit of a freefall after winning six out of six at the start of term. Bath City in the FA Cup? Sure, they were doing well enough in the league below, but nothing to worry about. Right?
Bath City: And Then What?
Wrong. A 1-1 draw indoors should have been the warning the Romans fancied their chances. Sure enough, the replay at Twerton Park saw us dumped out of the Cup. Bath, meanwhile, went on to lose at home to Hendon in the First Round Proper. A story that started with a Cupset by us finished (for the time being) with a Cupset for them. Much like ourselves, the early 2000s were lean times for them, but things have since picked up significantly. In 2007, the club won their third Southern League title. In 2010, they returned to the Conference.
That return lasted just two seasons. After an impressive 10th-place finish in 2011 above Grimsby, Mansfield and Cambridge, the following season was a disaster. It took a three-point deduction for Kettering to stop the Romans finishing rock bottom. Since 2012, then, it has been the National League South (or whatever it’s called) in which you’ll find Bath City; sometimes in the bottom half, sometimes in sight of the playoffs but just falling short. Just think how different it could’ve been if the League had voted in favour of their election…
Bath City: Boro’s Record
P11 W6 D3 L2 F20 A8 – League Points: 13, Cup Meetings: 5, Win Rate: 55%
• BoroGuide’s Bath City club profile – for old time’s sake…