Bath City – Tuesday August 16th 2011

'After the recent outbreak of Delhi Belly at Twerton Park, the management make sure that the escape route is clearly signposted...'

As a dyed-in-the-wool ‘groundhopper’ I don’t often make return visits. If I do, it’s either to cheer on Forest or to introduce my lad to a ‘big ground’. There are a few stadiums around the country, though, that I have enjoyed in the past and might possibly find some excuse to go there again. One place I had more reason than most to return to was Twerton Park, for the simple reason that I had never seen landlords Bath City play there, my sole previous visit being when lodgers Bristol Rovers were in residence.

Every year I make a two-day business trip to the West Country and usually manage to fit in a couple of games. Last year I was severely hampered by poor weather, but this time around the prospects are good as I zoom around the Somerset countryside, eventually arriving at my ‘digs’ for the night, a cheap guest house to the west of Bath city centre. I know the area quite well and call in at the Hop Pool on Upper Bristol Road. This was operated by Moles Brewery at one time but now sails under the Bath Ales (paradoxically a Bristol company) banner. Their three core beers are all different in colour, and I go for the Barnstormer which is a little like Hobgoblin to my taste, dark but a bit thin for a premium strength bitter.

From here I move on to the Royal Oak on the Lower Bristol Road. Another ex-Moles pub, it’s now a free house specialising in obscure (to me anyway) microbrewery beers from the region. They helpfully put a little glass of each ale in front of the handpump so punters can assess the colour before they buy. Needless to say all five on offer are gold (surprise surprise). I plump for the darkest gold (!) example on offer which happens to be Solar Power brewed by the Isle of Purbeck Brewery. To be honest it neither smacks of malt nor hops – a bit of a nothing beer really.

Nearer to the ground, but up a steep hill overlooking it, is the White Horse, which has just won a few CAMRA awards. There isn’t as wide a choice here as I expected, but I try a Dursley Steam Bitter which tastes marginally better than it looks. At least it’s not gold but its not a brew I’d have another pint of. My final port-of-call is the Old Crown on Twerton High Street, arguably the closest pub to the ground. It doesn’t usually feature on many footie web sites because it’s not really a specialist ale house, but I’ve known long-serving licensee Eric for more than 15 years and he keeps a decent pint. Tonight he has Courage Best, Banks Mild, St Austell Tribute and Sharp’s Doombar on handpump, something for everybody, I’d have thought. His match-day barmaid is quite tasty too.

Suitably refreshed, and pausing briefly to check that the large bar outside the ground has nothing for the specialist ale drinker – it doesn’t – I pay my £13 and enter the stadium. Twerton Park is a real Edwardian classic. Smack in the middle of a residential area, they sure don’t build em like this anymore. Raised terracing all round is only covered down the length of one side, which is bad news if you’re an away fan and it’s raining. There’s a large traditional main stand straddling the half way line, with terracing in front. and another smaller seated stand which I presume is for visitors. There’s a snack bar serving vegeburgers – whey hey! – and although mine costs £3.40, I have gone the extra mile by garnishing it with cheese, onions and chilli sauce. Lovely!

Before I discuss the game, a word about the city mascot. For some reason it’s some geezer in a pig costume, and it’s a particularly hyperactive pig at that. At various stages of the evening it’s cavorting round the pitchside, high-fiveing kids, frequently stopping to do push-ups and other physical jerks, and at one stage even taking centre-stage amongst the kop choir for a rendition of some local anthem or other. I mention all of this because that’s where the evening’s true entertainment turns out to be. Certainly not on the pitch where for almost all of the 90 minutes it’s a frantic mess of shoddy passing, poor ball control, toothless attacking, minimal vision and general mediocrity.

I recall the 5-star performance last Saturday from two step 4 teams and compare it to this Step 1 ‘spectacle’ and despair. When visiting Wrexham do manage to take the points by notching two in two late minutes, they are the ONLY highlights of a very poor game. Just as well that the Bath fans are the polite-ist in football, clapping everything and everybody at every opportunity – when they announce the away attendance of 200-odd, the visiting Wrexham fans are given a round of applause for turning up, much to their probable bemusement.

Doubtless the regulars will be back again next week. Sadly, as my two visits have been separated by nearly 23 years, I doubt I could be classed as a regular…

Programme: £2.50 from sellers inside and outside the ground. Big and glossy but very heavy on adverts.

Parakeets: Not that I can recall

Floodlight pylons: Four traditional English pylons, one in each corner, visible from a distance!

Toilets: Vintage block near the turnstiles. The earthiest I’ve seen since they demolished the ones at Feethams. They should be listed. An experience.

Club shop: Seem to recall a tent outside the main stand.

Teams run out to: The Mighty Mighty City, clearly a scripted club song.

What’s in a name: Wrexham’s Joslain ‘Possibly’ Mayebi.  I was just wondering if Bath number 11 Lewis Hogg was any relation to the mascot? Also, with a Blackburn, a Harris, a Walker, a Wright and a Westwood in their ranks, are Wrexham really a team of ex-BBC DJ’s? I think we should be told….

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