Constantine v Threemilestone, Trelawny League Division 1
Brian Jorey, Constantine chairman and ex-player, is looking over some old team photographs in the social club by the ground. As with most clubs the pictures capture the occasional highlights, the trophies and promotions, and the long fallow spells in between. Brian has a realist’s acceptance of the way a club’s fortunes will fluctuate with the years. The successes, when everything comes together and the team excels, are treated as windfalls. The inevitable lean times are borne as part of the nature of things. “They’ll do better”, he says, “They’ll do worse”.
He’s joined by ex-players Derek Hocking and Keith Rashleigh, who explain how the culture of the club has been shaped over time by the people who have kept it running. For as long as they can remember Constantine has never been a team for star players, but one that was built on a strong team ethos, a team in which “everybody did their stuff”.
Founded in 1921 by village men who had returned from the Great War, most consider the club’s highpoint to be the mid-sixties. The team won the Falmouth-Helston League Division One undefeated in 1966 and the following year lifted the Cornwall Junior Cup. Their only other Falmouth-Helston League trophy came in 1982.
There’s a fondness for the days of the old 1960s Falmouth-Helston League and the daunting away trips to rough, cow-trodden pitches. Matches against the teams down on the Lizard peninsula could be particularly intimidating. Derek seems to have considered the village a border outpost of the civilized world, from which they had to venture to face the wild men of Mawgan, St Keverne and Ruan Minor. “Every time you got over Gweek Bridge you were in another world… they didn’t have rules.”
The consensus seems to be that the standard of football at this level has dropped since the birth of the South West Peninsula League. The creation of an extra tier dragged the better players off to fill the gap, while the merger of the Falmouth-Helston with the Mining League, considered by Falmouth-Helston veterans as inferior, has diluted the quality of what is now the Trelawny League. Here the connection with the old Falmouth-Helston is particularly strong, as Constantine were one of only two teams, along with Mawnan, who featured throughout its entire fifty year duration.
The club’s Trelawny League history has been steady, if again illustrative of how fortunes can quickly change. After winning Division One in 2012 promotion to the Premier Division was soon followed by the departure of the manager and the core of the team to Penryn Athletic. Constantine struggled for a few seasons before being relegated in 2016.
While many clubs at this level survive through income from their social clubs, here the village social club is unaffiliated to the team. The club gets by through team subs, bits of sponsorship and the odd race night in the bar.
There are always unconfirmed rumours that various teams at this level are paying players, but that wouldn’t be sustainable at a team like Constantine. Everyone here’s adamant that it’s never happened before and it never will.
The fate of the club’s second team shows the precarious, unpredictable nature of grassroots finances. After the terrible wet winter of 2015/16, when it seemed there was barely a Saturday between November and March that wasn’t waterlogged, the ensuing fixture backlog would require the seconds to play an impossible four games a week to catch up and complete their season. With the threat of a series of crippling game-by-game league fines for unfulfilled fixtures, the financially viable option was to fold the team.
But the club, whatever the fates may throw at it, abides. The second team has been revived this season and today they’re travelling away to their first ever fixture. Having chosen to start their season late, so as not to lose players to the village cricket team, this is the season opener for the first team, too.
They’re a young side, with an average age of about 20, which finished mid-table last season. Threemilestone, who were relegated from the Premier League, are an unknown quantity.
The game begins scrappily, with neither side able to settle into a cohesive pattern of play. The visitors look as though they’re having trouble with the infamous ‘Constantine slope’, which not only has the pitch tilting dramatically on one side but also cambering up to the middle. Midway through the half Constantine take the lead. In the space of ten minutes they double it, give away a soft penalty to make it 2-1 and get a third. Finally the game starts to take shape, with Threemilestone keeping possession and pressing, but Constantine always look threatening on the break. Just before half-time a goal of the season/complete fluke sees the Threemilestone keeper chipped from outside
the area and it’s 4-1.
Perhaps inspired by Phil Brown, or more likely by the bloody awful state of the away dressing room, the Threemilestone manager chooses to give his team talk pitchside.
It doesn’t look to have worked. The second half begins and Constantine have soon made it 5-1. Threemilestone pull one back. Then, quickly, another. It’s 5-3 on 70 minutes. The home team look to be tiring, mentally and physically.
There is now constant Threemilestone pressure. Constantine bums are getting squeaky. Threemilestone score a fourth on 80 minutes and shortly afterwards an equalizer. Neither side has anything left to give and the game ends 5-5.
Football. Bloody hell.
Despite their disappointment at losing a four goal lead this young Constantine side never stopped playing for each other. Everybody did their stuff. And as long as there are people willing to devote their time and energy into keeping the club alive then they’ll continue through the lean times and the triumphs. They’ll do better. They’ll do worse. They’ve seen it all before, around here.
Thanks to Brian Jorey, Derek Hocking and Keith Rashleigh
More match photos here