LAUNCESTON-based Bath City striker, Andy Watkins believes he’s still got ‘one or two good years left’ in him at the top levels of Non-League football, as he awaits to find out whether the Romans will be given the chance to secure promotion to the Vanarama National League, due to the ongoing Coronavirus outbreak.

Bath are currently fourth in National League South having racked up 63 points from 35 games, and with just seven games remaining, all National League clubs are awaiting to see what the FA will decide.

Watkins, 34, hails from Launceston and over the last 17 years has scored well over 250 goals for the likes of Bodmin Town, St Blazey, Bideford Town, Truro City and Bath City.

Standing at 5’8, the Holsworthy Community College PE teacher, who is renowned for his blistering pace and work-rate and is Bath’s record National League South goalscorer with 45, hasn’t always had it all his own way since joining Southgate Colts as a seven-year-old.

Watkins said: “I’ve played all my life, ever since I could walk, and that’s very much down to my dad, Trevor who’s very passionate about the game.

“I joined Southgate at the age of seven and had spells with Plymouth Argyle’s youth sides from the age of ten to 13, but I was told I was too small.

“I played at Southgate until the age of 16 and joined Launceston where I played in the reserves and under 17 teams which were both managed by my dad.”

However, a move down the A30 to Bodmin Town gave him the platform for Argyle to offer him a second chance.

He said: “I moved to Bodmin Town at the age of 17 under Paul Hicks and played about a dozen games for them before moving to St Blazey, who were the best team in Cornwall at the time. We won the league in 2002/03 and I managed to score a fair few goals.

“At that time I was asked to go and train with Plymouth Argyle under Paul Sturrock, but due to university I accepted a one-year deal and deferred uni for a year.

“But due to them being promoted to the Championship, I never got given enough opportunities to stake a claim.”

Watkins did a BEd (Hons) in PE at Plymouth Marjon University which allowed him to combine education and his love of finding the back of the net.

He said: “After Argyle, I went to Bodmin for the 2004/05 season and scored over 25 goals. In that year we played Bideford Town in the FA Vase, and we won 1-0, I had a really good game and they wanted to sign me.

“I joined them for the 2005/06 season and we won the Western Premier League, and I was lucky enough to be top-scorer in the league with 26.”

In the summer of 2006, big-spending Truro City, who had just won the South West Peninsula League Premier Division, came calling, and despite the prospect of having to play in Western League Division One, one division below the Robins, Watkins made the move to Treyew Road.

Watkins said: “Truro came in for me the previous season, but they were in the South West Peninsula League, so I said no, but when they came in for me again, the opportunity and the quality of players they had there was too good an opportunity to turn down.”

Over the next seven seasons Watkins enjoyed almost unbridled success as the White Tigers moved up through the leagues, securing four promotions in the next five years to reach National League South (Conference South).

However, it was the first season, which saw them win the Western League Division One title with a record points haul and become the first-ever Cornish winners of the FA Vase by virtue of beating Hampshire-based AFC Totton at Wembley Stadium, that was the most memorable.

Watkins said: “It was a funny season actually, I didn’t play much at the beginning of the year due to Stewart Yetton and Shane Tolley, and I nearly left.

“But the manager Dave Newton moved on and Dave Leonard came in and I played the rest of the time and we had a brilliant season which ended with us winning the FA Vase at Wembley.

“I remember going there the day before and I just stood in the middle of the pitch. I just remember it being completely empty, and I remember looking at this unbelievable, pristine, brand new stadium and then ringing dad. He was buzzing as well, it was a really nice moment.

“Then on the day we got off to a poor start and went 1-0 down, but we went on to win 3-1 in front of over 36,000. It was a brilliant, yet surreal day. There was even a coach-load of people from Launceston that came up.”

However, it was the semi-final with Curzon Ashton from Greater Manchester that was arguably even more special for the White Tigers.

Watkins said: “We played Curzon Ashton in the semi-final. We lost the first-leg 1-0 and got absolutely battered. Our goalkeeper Dan Stevenson played unbelievably well and kept us in it. In the return leg, I managed to score early on and we went on to win 3-1 and 3-2 on aggregate.

“Winning that semi-final was almost as good as the final as the carrot of playing at Wembley was in front of you.”

In total at Truro, Watkins won four promotions and two Cornwall Senior Cup crowns, before financial trouble at the club, caused the White Tigers to almost go out of business altogether.

Watkins admits it was a challenging time.

He said: “It affected everybody. The 2012/13 season, when it started to go wrong, we had the administrators come in and we had to have a lot of meetings. I actually had the chance to move to Bath in January 2013, but decided to see the season out at Truro. But unfortunately we ended up getting relegated that year from National League South, so Bath came in for me again in the summer and I decided to move on.

“I wanted to play at the highest level I could for as long as I could. Bath came in four years earlier, but we had something special at Truro so I decided to stay there, but Bath are a massive club so it was too good to turn down, and I’ve been there ever since.”

Looking back at his time at Cornwall’s most successful club, Watkins paid tribute to a number of people.

He said: “At the time I didn’t realise how special it was, purely because of the fact because I’d won a league six times. It was almost normal for me, but now it’s been nearly ten years since I’ve won anything.

“As a group of players we were together for a number of years, so as well as being team mates we became close friends, and we had some good managers along the way.

“Kevin Heaney, the backer behind it, was the driving force, he was very passionate.”

Despite clear, undisputed passion for the game, combining work, where he’s been since September 2009, with playing for a Somerset-based club, has its challenges.

Watkins said: “It can be very tough. For example, on a Tuesday I get to work for half past eight, work all day until 5, and then go straight to Bristol City Academy where we train from 8pm to 10pm, and then get back to Launceston for about midnight. It’s hard at times but I love football and the playing side of it outweighs the driving and time commitments.

“When I was at Truro I developed a lot and had interest from several English Football League clubs, but decided to play part-time alongside my job. But if I had my time again, I would like to have given it a go at a higher level.”

Although now into the twilight of his career, Watkins has no plans to stop anytime soon.

This term he’s scored five goals in all competitions, and was on the way back from injury when the season was brought to a halt.

He said: “I don’t know where I’ll be next season. A lot of it will depend on whether Bath get promoted, because if we do I wouldn’t be able to commit to three days of training a week, which is what they want to do if we go up.

“I’m sure I’ll get some offers in the summer but I don’t know where I’ll be. But I still feel like I’ve got one or two good years left in me.”