Tregony v Looe Town, Duchy League Division 4
The village of Tregony, ‘the gateway to the Roseland peninsula’, despite lying only a mile or two south of the main Truro-St Austell road, can seem a bit out on a limb. In footballing geography the Roseland lies on the south-western fringes of the Duchy League, and even the lower reaches of the league demand schlepping around to places like Week St Mary and St Ann’s Chapel in the far north and east of the county. There are some, among them Tregony player-manager Steve Floyd-Norris, who would like to see the creation of a mid-Cornwall league to cut down on the mileage. And there can be few playing the game in Cornwall who know more about the demands of travelling to the football than Steve.
Steve started playing men’s football for Tregony in 1992, aged 12, and was in the team every week by the age of 14. He went on to play in the East Cornwall and South Western Leagues, having spells at Sticker, Nanpean, Probus, Penzance, St Newlyn East, St Blazey and Falmouth. One thing he learned on that journey around the leagues and the county was the impact that a motivational manager can have on a club at this level, and he’s still in contact with many of those ‘proper football people’ who inspired him along the way.
But playing for Probus in the East Cornwall League means a lot of travelling, and parenthood five years ago led to Steve realising he could no longer commit to Tuesday nights away at Holsworthy, so he returned to his home club and the Duchy League.
Steve says that there has always been a good core of players at the club but, like himself, they’ve tended to move on to play at a higher level at Probus or been lured away by the success of teams like Veryan. “The opportunity was always there to play East Cornwall, and a higher standard, or to play within something that you knew was going somewhere, and as much as Tregony talked about advancing and getting better as a side it’s not quite happened. They’ve had one or two good sides but it’s never kicked on.”
The team has spent much of the past 20 years yo-yoing between Divisions 3 and 4 of the Duchy League. Last season was a low point, with the club struggling to recruit and retain players and being relegated with a single league win to their name.
“The biggest achievement is that there’s still an actual team going,” says Steve. “We’ve struggled with numbers. Last week we had five lads out. We’ve had that quite a few times.”
But another legacy of Steve’s journeyman past is a full contact book, and he’s frequently turned to that to drag players in to fulfil fixtures. “Last week I had a friend of mine who was a prop for Penzance Pirates playing at right back. He did alright. He’s a big lad, but surprisingly quick. But he’s obviously got a professional attitude and he’d never let anyone down.”
“We’re still going. The last few games of last season we had only five players, but we always saw the fixture out by dragging more players in. We had a few tankings, and a lot of people ended up questioning if they wanted to be involved. But on our best day, when everyone’s available, we’ve got a good side. It’s a case of needing that drive to push on and train hard, getting the attitude right.”
There’s a commonly held opinion that the calibre of local football has declined over the years, but Steve isn’t so sure. “You always have comments about the standard being worse. I don’t think it’s necessarily worse. I think maybe the drive and attitude of players is different. There are players now, you watch them warm up and they’ll stroke the ball around, and they can do all the keep-ups, flicks and tricks. But that attitude where they want to play for each other and not let each other down, it’s not there as strong. I’ve played in sides where some of the lads weren’t very good footballers but they’d go out on Saturday and do a job for you.”
Instilling a sense of responsibility and a desire to work towards a common purpose are important to Steve. “It’s about getting other people involved. The secretary and treasurer aren’t often here on matchdays. If a ball goes in the hedge during a game, even if I’m playing they all look to me as if to say ‘what now?'”
“When I was younger we’d just come up and play football. Now it’s different. Before they’re even any good they want the hundred pound pair of boots, the sixty quid shirt. They look the part before they can even do anything.”
“There’s the attitude as well where they’ll say they can’t make it because they’ve got something else on. They’re buying a new pair of shoes for work or sorting out a new mobile phone in Truro.”
“I’ve had injuries in my time and my response was always to turn up on a Saturday, go and have a warm up and see if I was able to play. Now everyone seems to go and see a physio. The physio’s telling them that they can’t play for six weeks. And they’re there kicking a ball around!”
Relegation has enabled the team to regroup and draw in new personnel. They’re currently fourth in the league while today’s visitors, Looe reserves, are sitting mid-table.
Tregony, with the wind and the slope on their side, start the game well. In the first 20 minutes the home side have a couple of scoreable chances but Looe work their way into the game and, with neither midfield able to take control and give the game any shape, the first half ends scoreless.
After the restart Looe look to have gained a bit of bite and attacking ambition, and score two within the first 20 minutes. The game gets a bit niggly, resulting in a Tregony sending-off and an entertaining nine-man scuffle, but Tregony, despite their efforts, don’t look like getting back into the game. They’re left to rue their early misses as the game ends 0-2.
It’s a setback but the club looks to be over the trauma of last season and is heading in the right direction. Steve, one of those ‘proper football people’ who knows what it takes for a club to succeed at this level, recognises that the team has turned a corner.
“We’ve got past the stage of just staying afloat. We’ve had the worst bit. It’s just a case of plugging away and keeping the team going, and hopefully at some point we’ll get that success that I think we deserve. Because you’ve got to go out and earn it, haven’t you?”