Thursday, 20 May 2010

In praise of Bath City

This first appeared in the Bath Chronicle of May 13

Let's face it, this has been an amazing week.

It's been a week of high drama, shock results, dreams being shattered, dreams coming true and thousands of people being involved in the same communal event. No, for once, I'm not talking about the wonderful world of politics - I'm talking about that equally enjoyable modern drama: football.

Sunday turned out to be a red letter day for the beautiful game. The Premiership placings were (somewhat predictably) decided but none of those games could have been as tense and enjoyable as the one I witnessed along with thousands of others at Twerton Park.

For, on Sunday, Bath City, playing in front of their biggest crowd for some 16 years won a special play-off final which means that they have earned the right to play in the highest echelon of non-league football next year. It's the first time they will have tasted those dizzy heights since, ironically, Tony Blair came to power in another major political upheaval in 1997. And I'm sure they are looking forward to the experience every bit as the then fresh-faced Mr B did.

I've often thought it must be quite tough to be a fanatical football fan in such a rugby-dominated city as Bath. We are all, of course, quite rightly proud of the achievements of Bath Rugby - especially at the moment with their thrill-a-minute performances since Christmas - but Bath City are every bit as key to our sporting fabric as our rugby heroes. And it was wonderful that on Sunday they were in the limelight and had thousands of people at Twerton Park cheering them on. The fact that Bath attracted nearly eight times their usual gate was proof that this is a city which can sustain a big football club as well as a big rugby one.

For those who don't know too much about the complexity of non-league football, Bath will next year be playing in the Blue Square Premier Division which is, in effect,League Division Four. Most of the clubs who play in it - including many ex-league sides - are full-time and have large gates, large bank balances and lofty ambitions. In non-league football terms they really are the big boys and Bath are now proudly among them once again. Hallelujah.

The great thing about winning promotion is that, unlike say winning a cup, winning promotion gives you a season-long prize. Next season City fans will be visiting nicer grounds and watching better football week in week out. And theyn willl love it.

I am thrilled for everybody involved in this great football club. I'm thrilled for the players, the management, the club volunteers and the staff. But, even more, I'm thrilled for the fans.
Players, however loyal, come and go, but once you are a fan of the team, that stays with you for life, and so the loyal Bath City fans will now have their faith rewarded with a chance to have a weekly taste of the cream of non-league football.

So, well done Bath City. You are the pride of our community again and you have thoroughly deserved the smiles that were so evident on every face at around 4.10pm on that remarkable Sunday afternoon.

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