Tintagel v Lanivet Inn, Duchy League Division 2
There’s something incongruous about the existence of a football team in a place that’s famous for something entirely different. The village of Tintagel, due purely to its ruined castle’s spurious link with Arthurian legend has, somehow, thanks to the dumb logic of our dumb age, seen its old centre become riddled with shops selling healing crystals, dreamcatchers and assorted New Age hardware, its pavements clogged with tourists. The place is a bloody nonsense, so it’s reassuring to know that there’s a football team here to lend it some normality, some sanity. In the same way that it’s nice to know there are similar football teams in Lourdes, in Stratford-upon-Avon, in Mecca.
Formed in 1903, the club’s only real period of success came in the 1940s, when it was riding high in the Bodmin & District League, and 1950s, winning the Cornwall Senior League and Cup double in 1957.
Tintagel’s most celebrated footballing son was Harry Cann, a famously courageous goalkeeper with a famously courageous hairstyle. who played for the side before going on to make over 200 appearances for Plymouth Argyle between 1927 and 1939, and who is remembered as one of Argyle’s finest keepers.
Brian ‘Jock’ Anderson (the nickname derives from his Scottish father, but Brian’s proper Cornish) has been at the club for 40 years as player, manager and now as club secretary. Together with a small core of volunteers he keeps things ticking over, managing to pay the bills and get a team out on the pitch. He says that, like at most junior teams, they’re dependent on those individuals who are willing to devote their time to the club.
Brian’s quick to praise groundsman Dave Littlejohns, who’s been involved with the club for over 55 years: “He looks after that pitch like a little baby. If it wasn’t for him it’d cost us forty, fifty quid a week just to get our pitches cut”.
The club gets by through putting on a monthly bingo night and the odd fundraising event. They use the cricket team’s clubhouse and changing rooms, but when the cricketers are playing at home have to change in a Nissen hut that doubles as a storeroom.
The club has been trying to raise money for some new changing rooms, but hasn’t had much luck with Lottery funding: “We made a couple of mistakes in the application and they chucked it back. It’s a lottery! What really annoys me is they’ll give out £100,000 to this club, £200,000 to that club, but it would have been better to give out £10,000 to lots of small clubs”.
In an age when a tiny percentage of the elite game’s money trickles down to fund grassroots, there’s a sense of injustice that clubs at this level have to work so hard just to survive: “It’s an insult when you hear what players are earning and what clubs are doing at the top. And what the players get away with. If one of our players swears at the ref it’s a red card and a thirty quid fine and a three week ban. They’re making us keep to the rules but they get away with it up the leagues”.
In the past the club ran two teams but these days it’s becoming harder to recruit young players. They’re competing for a limited pool with local clubs Boscastle, Delabole and St Teath, but there’s also the universal problem of young people just having more things to do nowadays. Brian explains how the rule that you now have to be 16 to play junior football has also affected the team’s ability to nurture players: “When you’ve got village sides you used to bring them in at fourteen and the older ones would teach them how to play. Now they’re coming in at sixteen but the biggest problem is they’ve got other things to do by then”.
Gaining or losing two or three players a season can make all the difference, and at this level a team’s fortunes can depend on it. A couple of seasons ago Tintagel were a point away from promotion. Last season, after losing a couple of players, they ended a point away from relegation. So far they’ve won one match and lost one. Brian’s waiting for the new season to take shape before he makes any predictions on their chances, but he likes the way the team are starting to develop: “They’re learning. They’re listening”. They’re managing to field a team with a full complement of five substitutes, to whom Brian is particularly grateful, turning out when they may not get to play.
Today’s opponents are newly-promoted Lanivet Inn. While Lanivet look good in possession and approach play their finishing against a home keeper who’s having a good day lets them down. Against an iffy defence and an outfield player who’s been forced to play in goal Tintagel take their chances and go in 3-0 up.
The second half follows the same pattern, and an early breakaway goal finishes Lanivet off. With the pitch cutting up, Tintagel look the more robust, direct side, and they end up winning the game 5-0. It’s Lanivet who’ll be needing the healing crystals tonight, Clive.
More match photos here