DAILY TELEGRAPH PREVIEW
Bath tap in to corinthian spirit
By David Miller
In 1880, when reaching the FA Cup final for the fourth time, and losing to Clapham Rovers, Oxford University received a walkover from Aston Villa and beat Nottingham Forest by the only goal in the semi-final. Team Bath, the first university side since Oxford to play in the first round proper, optimistically embark on the same path against Mansfield tomorrow.
Team Bath's expectations are necessarily modest. Even though Mansfield lie at the foot of the Nationwide Second Division, Ged Roddy, the University director of sport who is team manager, admitted: "We expect to be busy on Saturday!" His concern is that goalkeeper Ryan Northmore, likely to be busier than anyone, is receiving daily treatment for an injured thigh muscle, sustained in last Saturday's defeat by Lymington in the FA Vase.
"He's a key figure in the team," Roddy said yesterday, amid mild pandemonium at the university campus where 5,500 temporary seats were being installed for a tie that will be screened by Sky television, with live commentary on BBC Radio.
The irony is that the understudy for Northmore - who quit a professional contract with Torquay this autumn in order to attend Bath for a Higher National Diploma in coaching - is Chris Gibson, formerly an apprentice with Mansfield.
A number of the university side, who play in the Screwfix Western League Premier Division, have professional experience, notably Barrie Lavety, a Scotland Under-21 international who has played with St Mirren and Hibernian, and central defender Peter Tisdale, who was in QPR reserves.
Kevin Watson, captain and full-back, is a former Charlton apprentice. "We ought not to have much of a chance against Mansfield," said Watson, "but in the FA Cup anything can happen."
Many of the team are hoping that exposure in the cup will attract scouts and subsequent professional offers. They are not the first amateurs with commercial instinct. Ben Howard Baker, a famous England international goalkeeper for the legendary Corinthians, also played regularly for Chelsea - where hundreds of gallons from his paint company were stored beneath the Stamford Bridge stand.
Team Bath, like the Corinthians, who played in the FA Cup from 1923 to 1932, are recognised for their team effort and fitness. Someone once observed, after the Corinthians had thrashed the Army XI: "If there's a war, I'd rather the Corinthians were on our side than the Army." Roddy and his men are hoping to produce an echo of that sentiment against Mansfield.
It was fitness that pulled the university through the qualifying-round replay against Horsham, won on penalties.
"All of our players are real students," said Roddy, "and have to deal with normal problems. But they are not every-day students, we admit that. They have come here for two reasons - firstly to get an education, and secondly because they are talented footballers.
"It just happens that this year we have a great class."
Latest | November 2002