Lizard Argyle v St Day, Trelawny League Premier Division
There are few more satisfying moments of happenstance than chancing upon a game of football when you’re on holiday. When that happens on an August day as warm as this, when the ground happens to be overlooked by the best pasty shop in the county and when the clubhouse just happens to be hosting a real ale festival, then for the holidaymakers lounging in the sun at Lizard Argyle’s Recreation Ground the stars have really aligned sweetly.
A village outpost at the bottom of the Lizard Peninsula, overlooking the Lizard Lighthouse and the sea, this is mainland Britain’s most southerly ground. That’s reason enough for it to see a steady stream of groundhoppers come to tick it off their list, but today the tourists seem to have been lured as much by the beer and pasties.
Founded in the 1920s, the club have been playing at the Recreation Ground since 1927. It was village barber, team ‘sponge man’ and besotted Plymouth Argyle fan Johnny ‘Sweeney’ Williams who in 1949 kitted the team out in the green and black of the Devon club and renamed the team ‘Argyle’.
If there is one legendary figure from the club’s past then it’s Cadgwith-born winger Mike Tiddy. Tiddy, a Methodist lay preacher who refused to play at Christmas and Easter, played over 300 games for Cardiff, Arsenal and Brighton between 1950 and 1962, before returning to Cornwall to play for the club well into his fifties.
Lizard Argyle’s last game of the 1970-71 season, at Dracaena in Falmouth, coincided with the Arsenal-Liverpool Cup Final. Legend has it that Tiddy, instructed to play in central midfield, instead insisted on hugging the wing, where he had posted friends and family with transistor radios so he could be constantly updated on the score from Wembley.
It was this era that saw the club’s first real period of success. They won the Falmouth-Helston League Division Two in 1971 but, reluctant to meet with the increased travel commitments, declined promotion. Again they won the League in 1972, but this time promotion was forced upon them. Partly victims of their own success, with an ageing team and an inability to recruit new young players, the team folded in 1973.
Resurrected towards the end of the decade, the club enjoyed a brief period of eminence in the early eighties with a flurry of trophy wins before settling into a long period during which the silver polish remained untroubled.
But the past few seasons have seen something stirring down on the peninsula. Five years ago the team gained promotion to the Trelawny League First Division, followed by an appearance in the Area Final of the Cornwall Junior Cup. Steady improvement saw them win the First Division in 2015 and go on to win the Premier League in their first season. Unfortunately the club’s application to the Cornwall Combination League, and ‘senior’ level football, came too late, and the team were again unlucky to miss out on promotion last season.
But the foundations feel solid now. Everything’s in place to meet the requisite ground improvements if and when promotion comes. In an age when it seems barely a month passes without another local club going to the wall, Lizard Argyle seem to be healthier than ever. The two teams that the club fields are made up of genuinely local lads, and with a new under-18 team it’s anticipated there’ll a bedrock of talent to nurture for the future.
Today’s first home game of the season, against a St Day second team, is an early test of those ambitions. Both teams have won their opening fixtures convincingly and it’s hard not to attach significance to the result as an indicator of the season ahead.
Lizard storm it. With a disciplined team performance they boss the first half and go in 2-0 up. St Day start the second half with a period of dominance and possession but a third goal, from a Lizard breakaway, finishes them off. The game finishes 5-0.
There are always local clubs making big noises about their ambitions and master plans for the future, but more often than not they’re built on short-termism and unrealistic expectations. Down here though, by the sea and the cliffs, just off the radar, it looks as though a village club is quietly, gradually building something to last. I don’t think it’ll be long before they need to get those dugouts installed.
Thanks to Angela Lake, George Carter, Terry Stephens and Lizard Lives magazine
More match photos here