An American Football coach once said: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”
By that measure, Truro City’s trip to London to meet Charlton Athletic in the First Round of the Emirates FA Cup was a bust. But with the greatest respect to our transatlantic cousin, I don’t think he could be more wrong.
A more appropriate summary of last Sunday’s experience at The Valley can be found in the wisdom of the legendary (if slightly eccentric) Brazilian footballer Socrates who said; “Beauty comes first. Victory is secondary. What matters is joy.” Because there was joy in abundance last weekend, both on and off the pitch.
That’s not to downplay the disappointment of defeat, even if it was to opposition playing three divisions higher.
The faces of manager Lee Hodges, ’keeper Tom McHale and goalscorer Tyler Harvey in the post-match press conference were testimony to the pain of losing.
All those involved with Truro City would certainly have relished the chance to progress further in the competition. But there was so much more to it than that.
Last Sunday’s match was the culmination of days of preparation, both for the team and for club staff. The endless ’phone calls from national newspapers looking for quirky stories about players with unusual day jobs got a little tiresome; the idea of footballers that actually work for a living was clearly a novelty. And constant references to the club being an “outpost of football”, as if Truro was located somewhere north of the Arctic Circle rather than down the A30, also started to get old. But we bore it all with good grace, happy to see the spotlight shining for once on our little corner of the country.
On the pitch, the team rose above the predictable ‘plucky under-dogs’ clichés. Playing on a pitch that was a carpet compared to most in the Vanarama National League South where they usually ply their trade, the White Tigers created chances aplenty. A ball scrambled off the Charlton line in the first-half, a shot thudding into the crossbar in the second. As they are fond of saying in football: “On another day…”
And finally the fans, all 1,000 of them. Those who had boarded buses in Truro in the early hours of Sunday morning joined Cornish exiles living in the South East. They sang for the entire 90 minutes, overwhelming the more restrained home supporters with chants of “You’re only here to watch Truro”.
The eruption of emotion when Tyler Harvey headed past the former Manchester United ’keeper Ben Amos in the Charlton goal was marvellous to behold.
Other memories? Charlton fans waving and giving the thumbs up as the team bus turned into the road leading to The Valley stadium. Skipper Ben Gerring walking out of the tunnel carrying his baby son. The players jumping over the advertising hoardings at the end of the match to be embraced by the Truro faithful, proud of the team that had represented their city with courage and tenacity.
In our chaotic world, many things matter more than sport. But Sunday was surely an affirmation of Carlo Ancelotti’s observation that: “Football is the most important of the least important things in life.”