Bath Voice News: rolling back the years as former University of Bath footballers reunite to remember momentous win 50 years ago in 1974 (when Terry Jack’s Seasons in the Sun was number one)

From the University of Bath: On Friday 15th March a very special event was held, welcoming back the 1974 University of Bath Football team which had stormed to victory, against all odds, in the UAU Football Championship, with the final held in March 1974 at the St Andrew’s home of Birmingham City. In March 1974, it was election year; Margaret Thatcher had visited Bath to speak at King Edward’s School shortly after a General election which had seen Edward Heath’s Conservative Party lose their majority and Labour’s Harold Wilson return as Prime Minister in a minority government. However, for the 1st Football Team at the University of Bath it was memorable for very different reasons, as it was the year they became UAU National Champions. Eight of the original 1974 team, with their partners, returned to the University of Bath, along with further alumni from the 1974-76 period, to mark this historical anniversary and to see their teammates once again.

1974 UAU National Football Champions: Back row (left to right): Tom Hudson (Director of Sport), Alan Brett, Terry Corben, Andrew Hobden, Martin Tucker (GK), Neil Roupee, Rob Bull, Ivor Powell (Football Coach)
Front row (left to right): Steve King, Phil Cosgriff, Bernie Moss, George Wlodyka, Sean Murray

Some of the squad from 1974 elected to play a game of walking football in the University’s Founders Hall against players from the current University squad, overseen by Head of Football Che Wilson (won by the alumni!) while others opted for the gentler option of a spot of yoga. This was followed by a short stroll around the campus and a lively gathering, lunch and presentation in the Claverton Rooms, where a display of biographies and photos by the University Archivist, Lizzie Richmond, comparing the ‘then’ and ‘now’ was much admired – especially the longer hairstyles of the team in 1974!

Director of Sport, Stephen Baddeley, officially welcomed the players and their partners, and paid tribute to former Director of Sport, Dr Tom Hudson (appointed in January 1971) who had been the driving force behind the players’ success, along with the University’s football coach, Ivor Powell. This formidable coaching duo had made an instant impression on the young players. Former full-back, Sean Murray, commented: ‘’They instilled in us a very professional attitude; it wasn’t pretty but it was very effective!’’

Former captain of the ’74 squad, Andrew Hobden said: ‘’Tom and Ivor had a remarkable impact on us. They had total conviction and told us from the start we were going to win the UAU Cup. How I wish they could be here to share this day with us.’’

‘’They turned a bunch of schoolboys into winners’’ added former player, Neil Slater.

Winning the UAU Cup was an astonishing feat, given that the University of Bath was then the third-smallest from the participating 48 universities and colleges of the 1973-74 season; not unlike expecting a low-ranked league team of today winning the FA Cup. The team progressed to the final, through regional rounds and then beating Liverpool and Swansea in the national knockout rounds, and, after a 0-0 stalemate in the Championship final against Sheffield, the trophy was shared, as penalty shoot-outs were not in existence in 1974.

Team Photo 2024 (Credit: Nic Delves-Broughton) Back row left to right: Vrej Avedissian, Bernie Moss, Neil Roupee, Neil Slater, Andy Cavanna, (Cpt) Andrew Hobden, Alan Brett
Front row left to right: Sean Murray, Ric Ellinger, Jonny Howell, George Wlodyka, Steve King, Terry Corben

The University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ian White, addressed those gathered before handing out certificates to each former player. He praised the team, stressing how proud they should be of their achievements, and thanked them for their contribution to sport at the University, highlighting the immense power of sport:
‘’It’s incredible to think that a series of football matches led to 50 years of friendship and today is a true celebration of the power of sport, both in forging lifelong bonds and enhancing the student experience…. Sport is now a fundamental part of student life at the University of Bath, and also plays a significant role in our national and international profile.’’

The team enjoyed reminiscing and the memories of that victorious day were as fresh as ever in their minds, as Sean Murray recounted the joy on coming back to the University that day:

‘’On returning to the University after our victory, the whole team piled into the disco, raucously singing You Can Do Magic by Limmie & Family Cookin’. It was our theme song and one we played at full volume on our cassette recorder on the team bus!’’

The reunion came to a close, with, no doubt, the music of You Can Do Magic still ringing in the former squad’s ears.