The rise and fall of Truro City FC
First published August 2013
Cornwall. An enchanting land renowned for pasties, summer staycations and, apparently, some king who was in possession of a very circular table.
But despite its popularity and size, the south-west English county has perhaps been notable over the years for its lack of representation in the Football League.
That all looked set to change, however, thanks to Truro City FC’s recent charge up the pyramid.
Sadly, finances deserted the White Tigers before they could fulfil their ambition and they are currently fortunate to still be in business, never mind participating in the Southern Premier League.
But, just three years ago the picture was a lot more scenic.
When they took the Zamaretto Southern Premier League title in 2010, after a thrilling race with second-placed Hednesford, Truro created a new English league record, becoming the first team to achieve five promotions in six seasons.
This feat left them only two divisions from the promised land of League Two and getting there looked all but a formality with local property magnate chairman Kevin Heaney and manager Lee Hodges at the helm.
In fact, the club’s run to that point was quite remarkable. In 2005–06, Truro finished as runners-up in the South Western League and were promoted to the Western League Division One, which they won at the first attempt. And despite becoming the first Cornish club to play in the Western League Premier Division, they were in no mood to hang about, gaining instant promotion to the Southern League. City also became the first Cornish club to win a national trophy when they lifted the 2006–07 FA Vase at the new Wembley Stadium.
However, there were early signs the wheels might fall off this express train when Heaney had second thoughts on turning the club fully professional, a decision that led to the resignation of then boss Dave Leonard.
The club proceeded to work their way through no less than three further managers before settling on Hodges, and the former Plymouth defender, assisted by Dave Newton, guided City to their fifth promotion, aided by the goals of evergreen striker Barry Hayles and the prolific Stewart Yetton.
But while a sound structure existed on the pitch, off it there was a stumbling block in the guise of City’s Treyew Road home. Only in recent years had they carried out work on the stadium – and then only boosting the capacity to a not-so-lofty 3,500.
In 2005, the club did announce plans to build a new 16,000-seater stadium in the city, but residents who lived near the proposed site opposed the £12 million plans.
A year later, the club looked into plans for a £7 million football-training complex with two new pitches and a clubhouse on land in nearby Kenwyn, complete with a 60-bed hotel and offices at their present Treyew Road base. However, in 2007, Carrick District Council rejected the plans for the new stadium.
This clearly left chairman Heaney a frustrated figure, with his ambitions seemingly being thwarted at every turn.
Heaney was a London property developer before moving to Cornwall in 2001, where he became a leading player in Truro through his cornishhomes.co.uk company. His investment in the club had allowed City to attract players capable of playing at a much higher level but the ground issue saw the dream fading.
And it soon became a nightmare.
In 2011, Heaney found himself refuting allegations that Truro were in financial trouble and set to be sold. His case wasn’t helped when the club was faced with a series of winding-up petitions from HM Revenue and Customs over unpaid tax bills.
Dogged by this, Heaney finally stepped down as chairman in August last year, after being declared bankrupt, and was replaced by vice-chairman Chris Webb. By now, however, Truro’s financial plight was very much in the public domain, with first-team players claiming they hadn’t been paid.
It was perhaps no surprise when City filed for administration after the players refused to play in a league fixture against Boreham Wood.
Administration saw ten points deducted from Truro’s league total, leaving them adrift at the bottom of the Conference South table.
Worse, the Conference wanted a £50,000 bond from the club’s administrators to cover the costs of visiting teams, should Truro have been liquidated before the season’s end.
Thankfully, after protracted negotiations with administrators, local businessmen Pete Masters and Philip Perryman stepped in to pay the required £50,000. The pair then completed a deal to purchase the club at the end of last year.
But, while the club’s short-term survival was assured, Truro were relegated back to the Southern Premier Division before the 2012/13 campaign had even finished and, with that, ended their Arthurian-style vanguard charge for Football League representation west of the Tamar.
Despite the tumultuous season, new manager Steve Massey intends to make the White Tigers competitive again, and there is renewed talk of relocation. Whether or not the club will be able to truly pick up the baton for Cornwall once more is anyone’s guess.
If there is one silver lining for Truro’s fans, however, it is that the daunting prospect of a long trip to Carlisle on a Tuesday night can at least wait a little while longer.
Photos: Extreme Football