Apparently, Truro City will cover some 11,500 miles this season to fulfil their Southern League Premier fixtures. That’s an average of 500 miles per away fixture. So much for regional football!
When Truro travelled to Hitchin and back, they ran up around 600 miles. That will cost a coach approximately £500 in petrol. Truro get nothing from the gate from away games and they would have had to leave very early on Saturday morning (although I gather they came up earlier than that). The attendance was 320. Do the math, as they say!
But whereas some clubs who have to travel 50 miles fail to bring more than the proverbial one man and his dog to an away game, Truro’s fans numbered around 50 and they were a credit to the Cornwall club.
They made a day of it, some more than others. They didn’t stop singing, encouraging their team and creating the only atmosphere there was in Hitchin’s Top Field stadium. And this is a team that has not started the season well.
It is almost impossible for a Cornish non-league team to succeed beyond purely local football. Travelling is one thing – Truro’s local derby is Bideford, a 150-mile round trip – but also the reservoir of players diminishes as you go west.
Truro have flirted with success, however, but at a cost. They were promoted from the Southern League Premier in 2011 and had two troubled seasons in the Conference South. In June this year, they entered into a CVA (Company Voluntary Agreement), a phrase that is being heard all too often in non-league football at the moment. Despite this, the club is still looking to develop a new ground with the local rugby team, the Cornish Pirates, “A Stadium for Cornwall”.
Whether or not Truro climb again remains to be seen, but their supporters are just glad to see the club operating at a reasonable level after the financial turmoil of the past year. “We’re relieved to be playing,” said one fan who had clearly “made a day of it” at Hitchin. “As long as we’ve got a Truro City, I am happy, and the way we played today gives me great heart.” And, ironically, he raised a glass of Doom Bar beer, a pint from his own Cornish homeland!
Certainly Truro played with a lot of verve and did not look like a team near the bottom end of the table. They deserved their 3-2 triumph against a Hitchin side that has forgotten how to win matches – just one in 15 attempts.
But as our friend made his way home, he may just have wondered how football at this level can sustain itself. A 600-mile round-trip doesn’t make sense. It is time for the West of England to have a dedicated league at Step 3. Think about it.