Back in 1955, I doubt that the founding fathers of Bath Civil Service Hockey Club had dreams that by 2005 the club would be only one rung from the very top of the English Hockey ladder. However, as the current proud Chair of the club, I am writing a brief 50 year history whilst our teams go about their preparations for another hectic and competitive season. The club can be proud of the steady upward curve of its progress and the many highlights along the way.
The club developed out of the mixed Admiralty Hockey club and relied almost entirely on membership from the ranks of the many thousands of MOD staff in the city to raise only one side. The club colours were agreed as emerald green and scarlet. Founding and life member Ron Gray, a keen lifelong supporter until his recent passing, recalled that annual subs were set at 15 shillings. Home matches were held at the Civil Service Sports ground and 8 fixtures were played in the first season.
The Civil Service Club:
In 1970/71 the Civil Service Club moved two miles along the road into a purpose built clubhouse and sports ground (now the present day Sulis Club). The club could now boast that they had some of the best facilities in the area. The committee, led by life member and current club president Tony Sheppard, and included yours truly, set about the challenge of building a club to match. Bath was and still is an ideal centre for hockey with most local schools playing the game. The club realized that youth was the way forward and built up a junior section with strong links with most schools. The club grew rapidly from two sides to four with a “will travel” fixture policy to get the standard of fixtures required.
In 1977 the club name was changed to CS Bath Buccaneers which, whilst reflecting the early nautical connections, presented the right image of a go ahead club open to all. As with all clubs the advent of league hockey was to be a major turning point and the club progressed steadily to achieve promotion to the Premier Division of the West and Wales League in 1983/84. By now the CS had been dropped from the name and six sides were fielded each week including two development sides; the “Sabres” and “Blades” which gave priority to talented u-18s and u-16s players.
The first team were rarely out of contention but had to wait until season 1994/95 to win the West title and make their first attempt to achieve English league status via the play offs at Olton. They were to fail on goal difference. However this spurred the club to greater efforts and some lateral thinking!!
City of Bath Ladies:
The club needed to get bigger and broaden its outlook so a merger with City of Bath Ladies was successfully completed in 1996. The ladies brought 100 years of history and bags of enthusiasm to the club. A partnership and an action plan, with the support of main sponsors Sitec, was agreed with the University of Bath in 1999. The club moved to the University of Bath Sports Training Village (which by co-incidence is on the original site of the club) and created a role of head coach with a sole target of bringing English League Hockey to the club. Bobby Crutchley took up the challenge.
National League Hockey:
Three years later Crutchley had built a team to win the 2001/02 West and Wales League title and successfully negotiate the always competitive EHL Play offs at Milton Keynes. In that same season the team had knocked mighty Reading (who went on to win the Premier League that season) out of the HA Cup to give notice that they were not going to just make up the numbers!
Over the same period of time the club has been able to consolidate its base with all men’s and ladies sides highly placed in their local leagues. The club colours were changed to navy and yellow to fit in with the ‘Team Bath’ image and to enhance the merchandising possibilities.
Play Off Heartache:
EHL reorganization saw us given promotion to Premier Two in season 2003/04, finishing runners up but just failing to make Premiership status agonisingly losing on penalty flicks to Premier League Canterbury in the play offs. We have maintained our second tier status (now EHL Western Conference) since, utilising a combination of local and student players in addition to some international talent such as 2004 South African Olympians Wayne Denne and Jody Paul. The latter joining as Head Coach in 2006/07 to fill the void caused by Bobby Crutchley’s move to England Hockey full time.
Season 2006/07 also saw the merger with the University of Bath Hockey club under a new Team Bath Buccaneers Hockey club banner. The University now concentrates on BUCS mid week hockey to allow a single focus on club hockey at weekends. The club now runs 8 men’s and 5 Ladies sides every weekend.
Jody Paul’s side went on to win West Conference in 2009/10 and have a second crack at the Play Offs for Premier League hockey held at Cannock. A 2-1 victory over Premier League Brooklands, a last minute winner for Canterbury in a tight 4-3 defeat, and a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Deeside Ramblers saw Buccs lose out agonisingly on goal difference.
A second West Conference title followed in 2011/12, and a third meeting with Canterbury in the play offs. The men’s first team remain one of the top teams in the country and consistently in contention for the play offs.
The Ladies have continued to gain strength and the 1st team won the West League title in 2008/09 to gain automatic promotion to the England Hockey League.
The Ladies remain one of the strongest teams in the West of England following a three season stint in National League and are looking to return as soon as possible.
Strength in Depth:
The men’s regional sides are placed in higher leagues than their equivalents in other clubs and the A team won promotion in 2007, and again in 2011 to be one of the few non 1st XI teams in England to reach Regional Premier League status.
The Ladies have strength in depth and with sides 2-5 placed higher in the West League than most of our rivals. The 2nd XI won the England Hockey Trophy in both the 2005/06 and 2008/09 seasons.
The Men have recently returned to Indoor hockey and have achieved rapid promotion within 18 months to be taking their place in the England Premier Indoor League for 2014/15.
Both the men’s and ladies 1st team squads contain a host of junior and senior internationals and it’s hoped that there are many more in the pipeline.
The commitment to youth development is as strong as ever. The U10 to U18 boys and girls sides competing well at local and national level. In 2007 the U15 boys took bronze in the English Hockey Cup. The U10 to U12’s have won the Savills Junior League and Cup in regularly in recent seasons, competitions that have been organized by the club. In 2013 the Boys U12’s were National Champions and in 2014 this was matched by the U18 Boys with the U18 Girls winning the Plate.
The Academy has grown from around 120 members to over 300 in recent seasons. The club has achieved Club First status and formed a partnership with the local School County Partnership, with links established with all local schools.
Water Based Pitch:
The club signed a new 10 year partnership agreement with the University of Bath in 2010 and a new water based pitch (The Sitec Pitch) has been added in 2011 to the excellent sand dressed pitch completed in 2009. In 2013 a 300 seater stand was erected aside the Sitec Pitch. This provides the club with some of the most outstanding playing facilities in the UK.
In writing this history I am aware of all the things that I have had to leave out and all the very many unmentioned people who have played their part. The clubs strength is the character and commitment of its members and the fun we have trying to “make things happen! “
Chair, Team Bath Buccaneers Hockey Club