It is almost 13 years since Truro City became the first ever Cornish football club to win a national competition when, under Dave Leonard and with the backing of Kevin Heaney, they won the 2007 FA Vase by defeating AFC Totton 3-1 in a Wembley final.
Since then, the White Tigers have been no stranger to headlines, be it for their meteoric rise to Vase glory and National League South play-offs or the crushing lows of near extinction in between. Now under the ownership of the Cornish Pirates and with, in Paul Wotton, a fully fledged professional manager, Cornwall’s highest ranked team are on the way to becoming Cornwall’s highest ranked club.
Earlier this week The Independent met club consultant Alex Black, alongside colleague Jack Richards, with the former highlighting the importance of refreshing Truro’s reputation while creating improved links with the rest of Cornwall and helping develop a stronger identity for footballers in the county. “I am not from Truro, I am not even from Cornwall but throughout the whole country football clubs sit at the heart of the community and I think a lot of people massively undervalue and underestimate how important these clubs are to places,” said Black.
“Truro City has been there for 130 years. There had been ups and downs for this football club long before the likes of Mr [Peter] Masters, Mr Heaney and other people. “There have been a lot of people in charge of this football club through the years. I think there is a responsibility to provide more than just a team on the pitch. You have got to try and provide something that everyone can be proud of and be a part of. That is a massive project anywhere, to try and do that, but there is a definite emphasis on trying to engage with the community, trying to give young players from Cornwall an opportunity, give them a clear pathway to play at the highest level possible.”
Black went on to explain how players from the county have generally found it difficult to adapt to the upper echelons of the beautiful game in this country, with Cornwall’s lack of a professional football outfit leaving young players without the pathway afforded to their counterparts elsewhere.
“At the moment, if you want to be a good footballer in Truro, you get to the top of the South West Peninsula League and then it has stopped, historically. Truro City was there but not many players from Cornwall were playing for them. Your only other option was to go out of the county. We need to make clear opportunities.
“When you move up the levels, there is a lot more to it than just being a good footballer. You have to understand what is required and put your skills into practice. There is more fitness, training becomes more important, commitment, understanding of the team. The results become more important to everybody. There is a difference playing in front of one man and his dog, to playing in front of 50 people or playing in front of 500 people.
“If you don’t have that experience, it is a lot harder when you get there to be able to do it. We have consciously tried to get more and more players involved. We have used our League Cup and FA Trophy games to give some people and opportunity.”
A handful of players have already benefited from the club’s new outlook, including Truro College students George Tucker, Dan Stedman and Andreas Calleja-Stayne, who all supplement involvement with their local grassroots sides by stepping up to mix in and represent the White Tigers when called upon.
“Goalkeeper Dan Stedman plays regularly for Wendron United but has played three or four times for us and sat on the bench as well when we went up to Hereford in the cup. That is great experience for these lads. He comes and trains with us regularly along with Andreas, who plays for Penzance, and we have had a few other ones.
“We had five players from Cornwall playing in the team against Taunton Town recently. I cannot remember the last time when virtually half the team was Cornish, it must be a long time.
“We have got to be honest and say those lads are not ready to play week in, week out at the level that we are playing at but we have a responsibility to them and the other good young players in Cornwall to try and make sure that they are ready when they do it.”