Absolute Beginners

St Eval Spitfires v Delabole United, Duchy League Division 3

In 1938 the hamlet of St Eval, out on the winding B roads between Newquay and Padstow, was compulsorily purchased by the War Office. All its houses, bar the Norman church, were completely demolished in order to clear the way for an RAF airbase, and a brand new village was constructed for RAF, and later US Navy, accommodation. The Americans built a sports hall and community centre but the base closed in 1959. Most of the military personnel stayed on and commuted to nearby RAF St Mawgan until 20 years ago, when the MoD sold off all the housing and the village suddenly gained an entirely new populace.

Artificial in so many senses, there’s something incongruous, almost eerie, about the place. With the derelict ‘American buildings’ it feels a bit like one of those Red Army facilities that were abandoned after the Cold War, and somehow reminds me of the sort of location that might have been used for a Tom Baker-era episode of Dr Who, before they had the budgets.

Yet the very artificiality of the place has led to it developing a particular type of community spirit, with its residents having essentially to create that community from scratch. It was three years ago, on a November night in the old airforce bar, that Jon Summerfield and a few mates had the idea of starting a football club. They entered the Duchy League in 2015 and at first, like the village itself, they were learning everything from square one. Jon, now club chairman/team manager, describes how, without a line marker, he’d have to mark out the pitch for the early fixtures with a length of rope and a can of spray paint. But the village helped out, with a couple of locals volunteering to mow the pitch. With the old military facilities, including the changing rooms, having been sold off to a housing association, the team is reduced to changing in a garden shed. But it seems as though the sense of having to make do and scrape by has instilled a strong team spirit, because there’s a genuinely friendly and close-knit feeling about them.

Successive promotions in their first two seasons have seen the club to the third division of the Duchy League, where they currently sit in the lower half of the table. Today’s opponents, Delabole, are down at the bottom.

It’s a strange game. After an even start St Eval score two in quick succession about 15 minutes in. Delabole pull one back on the half-hour. It’s 2-1 at half-time but neither team has really managed to break down the opposition defence, and the goals have come from just about the only shots on target.

Jon’s team talk is all about keeping shape and not making mistakes, but the second half is more open. St Eval have a goal disallowed and Delabole hit the post from a free kick before equalising after intercepting a short back-pass. Delabole begin to push forward and both teams seem to have given up on the idea of defensive discipline, with chances at both ends. With about 15 minutes to go Delabole concede the softest of goals when a hopeful punt from the right wing goes through a crowd of players before squeezing over the line via the post and a flat-footed keeper’s boot. There are more chances, and misses, at both ends and St Eval manage to hit the post again before the game ends 3-2.


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