History of Falmouth Town

Falmouth Town were formed in 1949 and joined the old Cornwall Senior League in 1950, before becoming founder members of the South Western League in 1951/52. Until this time, it was near neighbours Falmouth Docks who provided the only senior football in the town. The club has played under the banner of Falmouth Town AFC on and off since the turn of the century and after the Second World War were playing junior football in midweek Wednesday League.

The new Falmouth Town has had a number of grounds over the years. The first friendly games were played on the Recreation Ground, loaned whilst negotiating for a more permanent home. Eventually a home ground was obtained at Union Corner, where Falmouth Town’s first ever SWL game was played. The game against St Austell on Saturday 18th August 1951 finished 3-3 and was played in front of a crowd of 1,200. Cedric Martin had the honour of scoring the first SWL goal.

Bickland Park became home in 1957 after the purpose built Ashfield Ground, home for only three seasons, was sold to Shell-Mex BP for over £20,000 – a small fortune in the mid 1950s. The deal also saw the ground on Bickland Water Road being built for the club but another season at a more developed Union Corner was needed before Town moved in for good and Newquay were the first visitors in August 1957.

It was former Birmingham City goalkeeper Ken Tewkesbury who was responsible for the introduction of senior football in Falmouth. His knowledge and experience were to be the essential link in the formation of Falmouth Town AFC. By the late 1950s, professionalism was introduced on a large scale.

The first major trophy was won in 1957/58 when Newquay were defeated 1-0 in the SWL Cup final at Truro. En route to the final, the club didn’t concede a goal. The cup was retained the following year when Truro City was beaten 6-3, a scoreline which stands as a record today. Falmouth Town completed the domestic Cornish treble in 1961/62 when they won their first ever SWL Championship, the SWL Cup and their first Cornwall Senior Cup. It was Town’s first appearance in the Easter Monday showpiece and the 7-1 win over St Blazey is also a record score in the final.

The following season saw Town’s place established in Cornish football history when they secured a place in the First Round proper of the FA Cup, a feat no other Cornish team has achieved. Having overcome the challenge of Barnstaple Town, St Blazey, Bideford and Bath City to reach this state, Town put up a brave fight against Football League newcomers Oxford United. In front of a record crowd, reported to be between 6,000-8,000, Town succumbed 1-2 with Johnny Penny’s late consolation goal sparking a pitch invasion. This feat was repeated in 1967 when Town lost 2-5 away to Peterborough United and in 1969 when the same team came to Bickland Park and left with a 4-1 victory.

The Cornwall Senior Cup was won again in 1964/65 along with the runners up spot in the SWL. The following season the league was won and the Senior Cup was retained. Falmoth Town had become a dominant force in South Western football, a title the team uphold to this day. Season 1967/68 saw a second domestic treble, which was repeated three years later in 1970/71. This third treble was unique until St Blazey’s efforts in 2001/02, as Town had achieved it without losing a single match in all three competitions. In fact, out of 49 matches, only three were drawn. A remarkable achievement that involved a squad of only 13 players.

The SWL title of 1970/71 marked the first of four successive SWL titles; during this period 553 goals were scored with 101 conceded from 130 matches. After the fourth championship and winning the Senior Cup and the Pratten Cup (overcoming Cinderford Town in a two legged final) in 1973/74, Falmouth successfully applied for application to the Rothmans Western League in search of a fresh, higher challenge. Making an incredible transition, they completed the League and Cup double without losing a match. It was New Year’s Day 1976 that Town’s first defeat at this level was inflicted upon them after a mammoth 58 match unbeaten run. Three more consecutive Western League titles were won, making it eight in a row for legendary manager Richard Gray, establishing an English semi-professional record that is unparalleled in English football history. Along with the manager special mention must be made of central defenders Mervyn Rich and Keith Manley (who holds the club appearance record of 580 games) for competing in all eight of those seasons. In 1976, ace goalscorer Tony Kellow was transferred to Exeter City for a club record fee of £12,000 and the previous season Roy Carter departed for a long and illustrious career in the Football League. Club record goalscorer Joe Scott departed in 1978 for Bournemouth having netted 204 goals in just 267 appearances.

During Falmouth’s stay in the Western League, four consecutive Cornwall Senior Cups were won between 1975/76 and 1978/79

Increased travelling expenses forced Town to withdraw from the Western League after nine seasons.

Upon their return to Cornish football, Town found their application to rejoin the South Western League refused by member clubs. The club had to settle for Cornwall Combination League football, taking the place of the recently reformed reserve team. It was the beginning of a new successful era under manager Dave Wadd. The Combination League was duly won and Town’s application to join the SWL was successful. In their one and only season in the Combination, they made history by being the only Combination League side to compete in the FA Cup. With the league not being of sufficient stature in the eyes of the FA, the club had to apply for special dispensation to play in the competition. Falmouth finished sixth in their first season back in the SWL, but the following season (1985/86), the League and Cup double was achieved and in 1986/87, the club achieved national recognition once again by reaching the quarter finals of the FA Vase. Following a 1-1 draw at St Helens Town, the club bowed out 0-1 in the replay to the eventual winners in front of a 1,500 crowd at Bickland.

Further SWL championships were added in 1986/87, 1988/89 and 1989/90 taking their total to eleven. Between September 1985 and April 1988, Falmouth played 52 SWL games at Bickland Park without defeat.

With Trevor Mewton in charge, Falmouth triumphed over favourites St Blazey 1-0 in the SWL Cup in 1990/91 and the following season won their twelfth championship. The double was completed with a 5-0 win over the Devon & Cornwall Police in the SWL Cup final. After two seasons without a trophy, former player Ray Nicholls was appointed as manager. With an almost new team, the SWL Cup was won in the first season with a 2-1 win over holders Bodmin Town. This was Town’s tenth League Cup success.

David Ball took over the managerial post vacated by Nicholls in the summer of 1996. Finding himself with less than half of the previous season’s players, he set about rebuilding the team with dramatic results. In his fairytail first season of management, he secured Town’s fourth domestic treble. The Championship was won on the last day of the season with a freak own goal in a 2-1 win against Bodmin. Surprise finalists Nanpean Rovers were defeated 2-1 in a replay following a 1-1 draw in the Cornwall Senior Cup. Truro City, runners up in the league were beaten 3-2 after extra time in the League Cup final at Newquay. Further success followed in 1998/99 when a first half Luke Hodge hat trick saw in-form Porthleven beaten 3-0 in the SWL Cup final at Truro.

The following season saw Falmouth win the first title of the new Millennium – a record fourteenth time. Town also won the Durning Lawrence Cornwall Charity Cup for the first time since their 1959/60 victory over Launceston. This time, a late winner from Dominic Pullen saw Porthleven beaten 1-0.

2001 saw Falmouth Town achieve another record. This time it was for the furthest distance travelled to undertake an FA competition tie. This happened when Town had to travel some 500 miles to meet Bedlington Terriers in the fourth round of the FA Vase. Unfortunately the result did not match the team’s efforts as Town succumbed 1-4 in extra time, the with home side’s equaliser coming four minutes from time.

Neil Phillips took over the reins at Bickland just prior to the 2001/02 season gaining a very creditable 7th placing on a very limited budget. The following season started promisingly but a poor late season run aggravated by injuries produced a mid table final position. The bright spot from the season was the winning of the Charity Cup for the third time beating Truro City 1-0 at Porthleven.

Following a poor start to the 2003/04 season and a humiliating 2-9 defeat at St Austell, a change in management saw former Cornwall manager Steve Massey take over the reins. With Steve’s brother Stuart and Neil Phillips in his managerial team, their first season saw a finish of 13th place achieved.

The 2004/05 season, despite early exits in the cup competitions the club finished in a very creditable 4th position, the highest placing since 2000. The end of the season was blighted by the defection of Massey to neighbours Truro City His assistants Stuart and Neil took over the remaining games before also moving.

Former Plymouth Argyle goalkeeper Gary Penhaligon did a fantastic job, leading Town to third position before opting to leave. Ex boss Steve Massey returned, bringing his coaching team with him for the final season of SWL football. A 10th place finish was enough to see Cornwall’s most successful club reach the Premier Division of the newly formed South West Peninsula League and begin life amongst the top non-league clubs in Cornwall and Devon.