What’s happened to Bath City FC?
By Mark Tanner
I’m ashamed to say it but I haven’t watched my local team, Bath City FC, for over a month. Work, social occasions and cost have all got in the way since my last game on September 12th; a home draw with Hemel Hempstead. This has forced me to listen to commentary in my lunch break, whilst spending time with family or checking the score in the evening.
After City’s latest defeat on Tuesday night (13th Oct) at home in an FA Cup replay against Harlow Town, a side two leagues below, it’s prompted me to ask the question to myself; What’s happened?
The back lash on social media and on the forum was horrific following Tuesday’s game with even the hardcore supporters getting at each other. Bath City have, by in large, very patient fans so something must really be amiss. I’ll start by looking at the playing form, players and management and finally off the field events.
City had a fantastic start to the season, the best since the 1940s, winning 6 games in a row and unbeaten in 9 games following the Hemel draw. Attendances averaged out at 702 (701.8 if you don’t round up) and the team were flying. To put these figures into context last season averaged out at 491 (490.9) with only two games breaking over the 702 mark; one of which was Jan 1st.
In the last month however the form has dropped off massively. 3 league games with 1 point to show from it and an FA Cup exit to lower league opposition. The solidary point did come at home to Basingstoke with a £1 student promotion in front of 779, but even reports from that game didn’t paint a thrilling encounter.
There was a win in the FA Cup against an inform Bodmin Town away but a trip to Harlow Town could only force a replay with a 2-2 draw. Only 330 turned up on Tuesday to watch City lose 2-1, despite the decision by the board to drop the prices for the game; the lowest FA Cup home crowd since the 1980s.
So the crowds have largely stuck with a stuttering City side but the drop in form is alarming. There needs to be a few more wins to keep the fans coming back. A good test will be this Saturday (17th Oct) when Ross Stearn returns with Sutton United.
On the playing side of things City have lost some key players with others coming back from injury but without the match fitness needed for the Conference South. City’s experienced left back Kevin Nicholson has moved on after the Bodmin win to manage Torquay United. Nicholson brought a danger from set pieces and long throws which unsettled defences creating space for the attacking players.
Aden Baldwin completed his month long loan move after the Maidstone United game; returning to Forest Green Rovers. The young centre back had signed on to replace Matt Coupe after the veteran defender went on holiday. Coupe’s form in the opening games gave City’s back line that leader they had been missing for the last few years and played a big part in the unbeaten run.
Jon Davies is the latest player to leave the club on Wednesday 14th October to join Frome Town in the Southern Premier League. The young winger looked very handy in pre season but struggled with fitness and away games which limited his performances at this level.
Out of all of the summer signings only Steve Phillips has performed at a consistently high level this season. His saves have been keeping City in games right until the end; he saved a penalty in the cup replay.
Bradley Williams has only started once in the last 6 games after showing early season promise; starting in 5 of the 9 league games before that. I can’t be sure whether this is due to injury or commitment issues as news coming out of the club only comes in the form of Bath Chronicle reports.
Up front City playing with a rotation of Pratt, Watkins and McCootie contributing 10 of the 21 goals scored this season. There are two ways of looking at this stat though, you can say at least the rest of the team are contributing to the scoring. However it’s not good to have your central midfielder as top goal scorer; Frankie Artus has 5 to Pratt’s 4.
How much of this lack of form is it the City management’s fault?
Lee Howells seemingly picks the team (and tactics) as Head Coach with Adie Britton giving advise on players and new signings in his role as Director of Football. However Jim Rollo is the one shouting orders on the touch line in his role as Coach with John Freegard, attacking coach, sat on the bench on match days.
So to the casual fan it looks like a confusing set up just by looking at the team in place. I’m sure it’s not as a player but the tactics sometimes employed are frustrating to watch.
The most frustrating one is when City go one goal up and sit back for the rest of the game. Usually the opposition get back into the game with a goal and once ahead City will start playing again. You can grind out results this way with 1-0 , 2-1 wins and lots of score draws, however there will also be lots of 2-1 losses or unnecessary draws. It seems like a very cautious approach and not one that will win you the league outright; although it is very similar to the tactics we’ve used over the past 10 years or so.
Winning the league is another issue which can spark the question, do we want to?
This brings me nicely on to off the field matters. Over the summer Bath City FC where subject to a community take over bid called the Big Bath City Bid. The board finally realised that the only offer on the table to secure the future of Bath City FC was the community ownership opinion. So years on from when the idea was first muted it was given the go ahead but only had a 3 month deadline.
So this was almost doomed to fail from the start as it was a bunch of fans coming together, trying desperately to pull some skill sets together, and trying to convince the people of Bath to give them the £750,000 they need to make their sustainable dream a reality.
This saw a massive effort from people from all walks of life putting on events and projects and ended up raising £300,000 through online pledges. So the next step was to ask the pledgers what they wanted to do. Very few pulled out and the rest overwhelmingly wanted the Bid team to consult the board to come up with a new extended deadline.
The last thing to come out of these talks with the board (which first happened in the last weeks of September) is that they are still in talks. So all the good work promoting Bath City FC has come to nothing so far. It’s now very hard to tell the casual fan or potential investor what is going to happen next. The Bath City board really do need to make a decision now rather than let it roll on to another week/month before all of this hard work and money simply goes back to the individual pledgers.
To conclude, what has happened? Everything but nothing is the answer, form has dropped off over the last six games, losing players and indecision from the men running the club. So just another normal season for most of the non league clubs up and down the UK!
I’ll leave it there for this one, plenty of talking points and many more issues to factor in. Please feel free to leave a comment on here or via social media with your views. If the same topic keeps coming up then I can do a follow up article.
Bath’s next game is this Saturday (17th Oct) vs Sutton United at home 3pm KO. It’s unfortunately another game I can’t get to but I urge everyone reading this to get down to Twerton Park and get behind the lads!