Sunday, February 27, 2011

Part the XIII: A Short History of Work's Football

Went to another Bath City football match yesterday.  They beat Southport 2-1!  I spent some time talking to an older fellow on the terrace about non-league football and we got talking about the two leagues below the Blue Square Premier (or Conference National) that city plays in.  They are Conference North and Conference South (or Blue Square North and South for sponsorship reasons).  South was the level Bath City won a playoff from last year to earn their promotion to the Premier.  Our conversation turned to a team in the North Conference.  Vauxhall Motors F.C.
A lot of our grandparents may mention the factory softball or bowling teams.  Here in the UK, factories often had football teams that would take part in the multiple, lower Sunday Leagues throughout the UK.  But some of these "Work's Teams" as they were called we actually quite good.  So good, in fact, that they would earn promotion to the semi-pro leagues.  Some would even go to the Premiership although they would then hire professionals to stay there (examples include Manchester United, which originated as a team of railway workers).  In this regard they became much like the Green Bay Packers back home.  Vauxhall Motors is interesting.  Founded in the sixties, while they have become semi-pro, at least one player on the team is still a full-time worker in the factory where the team is based.  

And it's not just them.  Airbus UK and Cammell Laird F.C. also play and the teams nicknames still show what many of the men are known for other than football.
Vauxhall Motors F.C.-Nicknamed the Motormen
Airbus UK- The Wing Makers
Cammell Laird F.C.- The Shipyarders

The best part is, these teams can play for the FA Cup.  So in any draw, one of these teams can play Chelsea or Man U.  Thats like your granddad's softball team going against the Yankees!  Often the results are predictable but every now and then, one of these little teams plays David to these Goliaths of the pitch.  As it is, many of these teams still exist in the lower Sunday Leagues carrying on the strong tradition of Work's Football.  


Monday, February 21, 2011

Highlights from Week Three

The Roman Baths

The Pump Room at the Baths.  Inside the window is the original fountain that brought up the healing waters of the bath so people could drink it.  At one time, this Pump House and it's restaurant was the place to see and be seen.

The Tower at Broadway in the Cotswolds.  Considered a folly, this is what happened when the Earl of Coventry decided to be rich and eccentric and build a tower.

A thatched roof cottage of the Cotswolds in Broadway.

The Snowdrops at the Painswick Rococo Gardens.

The Baker Street Underground Station had awesome Sherlock Holmes motifs throughout.

The Queen's house and Maritime College in Greenwich.

A swan at St. Jame's Park.  It is said that the Queen supposedly owns all the swans in England.

How to know what unit the guards on post at the palace are with.

So we stopped at a Toy Store in London, its train section was awesome.

A great what-if scenario.  The HMS Victory under Lord Nelson lays into a run-aground Bismarck.  Judging by the plane in the water, Nelson fitted some after market AA guns to the Victory.

Part The X: Where Nick goes to London, walks through a tunnel (under the Thames) and conquers the Capital's Public Transport!

So up until this past weekend, the closest I had been to London was sitting in the train station at Paddington to catch my train to Bath.  That changed with my recent travel to the Capital.  We left early Saturday morning on the train to London from Bath Spa.  We were into the city via the Underground by 9:00AM.  So all we had to do was find our Hostel.  This is the part where I mention that Google Maps is a lying and cruel mistress.  So the directions I had printed seemed to take into account a seemingly fictional road.  Luckily we walked past a Police Station and stopped in to ask for directions.  They told us to go through a tunnel and that we would be right there...okay, seems fair.  Problem is they didn't specify what tunnel and there happened to be two.  We went through the first we found.  Bad idea.

Alright so we walk 1600 Yards, that is more than 4000 feet, nearly a mile under the tunnel.  By the middle, I am lightheaded by inhaling a bit too much co2 from the cars in there.  At the halfway point, I begin belting Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer"...badly.  We finally get to the end.  Thats when it hits us...We just walked under the Thames...our Hostel is still on the other side.  Luckily, with the help of a runner and our travel cards, we caught the Docklands Light Rail (DLR) and then the Overground to a station right near our Hostel.  In other words, we took the National Rail, Underground, Overground and DLR in 2 hours...quite amazing actually.

So we finally got to the hostel and settled in.  We took a lunch at The Old Salt Quay (pronounced Kee) and planned out our day.  Luckily we had Katie.  Katie is a mentor to the students here with the ASE program and a student at Bath Spa University.  She happen to live in London.  She thus helped us plot out our day and ended up giving us a grand tour of the City.  
In Greenwich where I straddled the Prime Meridian of the World.

Outside Westminster Station to see the London Eye.

We got in just in time to hear Big Ben Strike 4.

Then took in Westminster Abbey

Swung by Downing although we didn't get to see 10.

Then we went to Buckingham Palace.

Trafalgar Square

And ended our first night in Piccadilly Circus.

Went back to our Hostel and hit a Pub for the night.  A true London pub, played darts, snooker, and sung some Karaoke.  Spent the night at the Hostel.  Austin and I had a few roommates but they didn't get in till after two.  They had had a few but they were respectful of us...seemed like nice enough guys.

So the next morning we resumed our tour.  
King's Cross.  We got to see Platform 9 and 3/4.

The Tower of London

The Tower Guards have the greatest uniforms of all time.

The British Museum

The Rosetta Stone

A Clockwork Automaton ship.  It rolls across a table and then fires it's guns while the men on board move about

Statues from the Parthenon.  This is really cool until you realize they were obtained illegally.  Then it is just awkward.

View of Tower Bridge and the HMS Belfast from London Bridge.
Overall, It was a great trip although I can't wait to visit again on a day trip so I can go into the Tower as well as see the changing of the guard and the Imperial War Museum.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Highlights from Week Two

The Incline outside our house on Northampton.

Touch Rugby.

Pulteney Bridge

The River Avon from North Parade

Pub Quiz at the St. James Wine Vaults.  We Got 2nd our first week!  No so much on the second...

The Royal Crescent

Bath City F.C.


The inside of The Ale House on Pierrepont Street.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Part the VIII: Where Nick goes to a British Football Match.

Spent part of the later afternoon today at a match of the local Bath City Football Club at their home pitch of Twerton Park in nearby Twerton.  The team plays in the Blue Square Bet Premier League which is the highest level of non-league football.  Now I can hear your next question:  "But Nick, what is non-league football?"  Well fear not as I have included this handy chart to explain it to you.
Make sense?  Remember that in the English system the top few and bottom few teams can be promoted and demoted to higher and lower leagues respectively.  Basically, Bath City is one step away from promotion to "The League".  That would then only put them 3 steps from the Premier League and teams like Chelsea and Man U. 
As an interesting sidenote in the team's history, during World War Two, the team was moved up to play in the  wartime temporary Division 2 Northern league.  They won this league and won games against teams like Man U, Liverpool and Everton.  They remain the only semi-pro club to ever win a Football League Trophy. 

So non-league is basically like semi-pro football.  Like the minor league baseball teams of the 1940s and 50s, the club only pays the players so much.  They then help the players to find jobs throughout town.  For example, one Bath City F.C. forward spends his off-time making chocolates for a local sweet shop.  These are guys who play football because they love the game and for the first time ever are actually getting a little bit of money for doing it.  The team's boss, Adie Britton, actually draws no salary from the team.  He makes his money as a businessman outside of the team.  Any work done in league is totally voluntary.  This makes him the only volunteer manager in the league and, as far as research shows, in all of English Football.

Now a bit about the stadium.  Twerton Park was built in 1909 by hand when men literally dug and leveled part of a hillside to create a football pitch.  It became the home of Bath City in the 30s.  It also served as home to the Bristol Rovers side for a while when they experienced financial problems from 1986-1996.  It can hold up to 8,000 people although the record is over 18,000.  Of the listed capacity of 8,000, only 1,006 of that is seating.  The other seven thousand is traditional standing terrace making this one of the last of the great English Terraced Stadiums.  There are no scoreboards or clocks.  Between songs and chants, the men on the terrace smoke, talk politics, and generally just shoot the bull.  There is a wonderful, old-timey feel to a day at Twerton Park.

Bladud the Pig, the mascot of Bath City F.C.