EVENING POST FEATURE ON BATH
CUP FEVER? IT'S A SLOW BUILD UP FOR BATH'S FINEST
Evening Post, 12 November 2002
It appears that Bath, a city whose sporting activities tend to centre on the chasing of eggs, has been gripped by FA Cup fever.
You can almost taste the anticipation as Team Bath, the university's football team who spend their Saturday afternoon's contesting in the Screwfix Direct Western League, prepare for the visit of Mansfield Town this week.
After managing to park near the 'stadium' that will contain 7,500 temporary seats, there is evidence that the mood is closing in on delirium.
Then the notice hits you, stuck on the bus shelter.
"Please note there will be no park and ride facilities available from the University to Bath city centre on Saturday, November 16.
"This is due to the staging of the First Round FA Cup match between Team Bath v Mansfield Town.
"We thank you for your understanding and cooperation in this matter."
Just what methods a disgruntled shopper could use in not cooperating is unclear but you fancy that the academics' little bit of history might just be gazumped by the need for the residents of North Somerset to get to M &S or make their weekly visit to the city's aesthetically-pleasing branch of Waitrose.
Plenty has already been written about the first university team to reach the first round proper of the FA Cup since 1880 and, from the evidence of last Saturday when it seemed at least one in three of the observers taking in the FA Vase clash with Lymington and New Milton were scribbling in notepads, a few more column inches will be filled again this week.
Most of the other spectators were attired in smart, black manager's coats with 'Lymington and New Milton FC' neatly embroided just below the left nipple.
Oh, and your archetypal non-league punter, holding the complusory five-year-old carrier bag and personal stereo with headphones that were wasteful in their curcumference. There were a couple of those too.
Having travelled 150 miles south west to gain something from the Team Bath experience, I can only conclude that I am none the wiser.
It would be difficult to describe the view followers of the amber and blues, which is also Team Bath's kit, can anticipate because the seats weren't in place.
The fact the facilities were not in place allowed the assembled four dozen or so to keep track of a lacrosse game played behind one goal, two hockey matches on the plastic pitches beyond the other and marvel at the bobsleigh run, without the snow, which winds its way through the tress just the other side of the perimeter fence.
However, the small stand did appear to be cozy on the other side of the pitch and I fancy I might be in there next week, along with the representatives of Radio Five, Sky and even Gazetta della Sport are rumoured to be interested in the match.
The burger van I was asked to roadtest will undoubtedly be there this week as I watched the game from the verandah of the sports centre to the side of the pitch which afforded a first-floor view.
This was something I have never done at a football match but it did give me the chance to take in the action at Twickenham, which was captivating as many as the football, in the bar and grab the final scores.
The bar area was so enticing that, having celebrated Iyseden Christie's equaliser for the Stags at Notts County and taken in the rest of the results, it had escaped my notice the game I was supposed to be watching had gone into extra time.
It was that captivating.
Another first was being served a cup of tea by someone, rather than taking in the staple reading material of TV Quick or a scruffy copy of the Star, who was required to left their head from a book the width of a brick entitled Applied Geometry.
Obviously this was a detail missed by many of the national boys who seem to think that a football team containing people working towards HND qualifications weren't real students.
The bloke behind the tea bar obviously is and that's good enough for me.
In the end, it was the visitors who went home happy after Bath had taken the lead with a header from Mike Wisson.
After 20 minutes they were cruising when Guiseppe Sabora knocked in a second and appeared to be overcome with emotion as he rushed over to what spectators there were and danced around for a bit.
It all seemed a little bit over the top and I wonder what he will do if he scores the winner this week because he didn't really leave himself anywhere to go.
Lymington's Steve Strong knocked in a reply a minute later and they were back on terms in the second half.
Kevin Gill hit a quick free-kick and the ball beat Ryan Northmore in the Team Bath goal but it was a real park football moment as the Lymington fans ran off in celebration and the ball ran towards lane eight of the perimeter track, having found its way through a hole in the net.
First stop for Watkiss on Saturday has to be to remind the linesman to check that one out.
From the changing rooms, it's the one on the right.
The winner came in extra-time as Bath ran out of puff, after Northmore had limped off with an injury and Lee Phillips nodded a winner over replacement Chris Gibson.
And then it was time to go after trying to picture what the ground would look like surrounded by green seats and wondering whether we would be able to use the facilities to the same extent when the Sky cameras go down at the end of the week.
I get the feeling it will be a somewhat different experience.
One interested observer noted: "They'll all be here in their Doctor Who scarves wanting a pound a pint."
Apparantly, the city will be turning out in their thousands, salivating at the hope of a Ronnie Radford-style episode in football folklore.
I just hope, in their anticipation, they don't forget that the buses aren't running.
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