Cornish patsies, Tinmen & c**k a boodle do

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There are eight Cornish footballers famous enough to be listed on Wikipedia.

Three of them have the word “Cock” in their surname. Make of that what you will.

(Ed - note our efficient swear filter has unfortunately edited the surnames of brothers Jack and Donald)

Scouring cyberspace last week, I came across the words “Cornish footballer” and wondered – this being the close season – if I could construct a team from the county of King Arthur, surf boards and ice cream.

So far, the answer is no.

I have Nigel Martyn in goal, another goalkeeper Dave Philp (seven games for Plymouth in 1984/85) out of position at centre-half, Matthew Etherington bombing down the wing – or not, as is his wont n– and five strikers: the Cock brothers...

Jack, a gifted tenor singer who became the first Cornishman to play for England and his younger brother Donald who wasn’t as good a singer or footballer.

Mike Trebilcock (the first black player to score in an FA Cup final), Tony Kellow (fondly remembered by Exeter fans – if not by me – after scoring a hat-trick against Leicester City in the 1981 FA Cup and now campaigning to have Cornwall enter the next Commonwealth Games).

And Richie Reynolds (Pompey supporters player of the year in 1992).

Jack: England's first Cornishman

From Cornwall to Millwall...

The Cocks (another brother Herbert played a bit too) were born in Hayles, on the southwest coast of Cornwall, but were never really local heroes.

Perhaps scarred by what must have been unremitting playground taunts, they went east and made their names at Brentford.

Jack, a tall, mobile striker scored two goals in two games for England in 1919/20 and, bizarrely, was never selected again.

He really made his mark at Chelsea but did score 73 of his 234 league goals for Plymouth Argyle between 1927 and 1929.

Once again, he spurned the southwest for the southeast, joining Millwall when he was 34 and making like an unstoppable goalscoring machine.

After managing the Lions (during World War II) he ran a pub in New Cross. When he died in 1966, he was 73, some innings for a man who, in World War I, had been declared “missing in action, presumed dead” on the Western Front.

He died a few weeks before the World Cup but, mercifully for him, before The Sun reinvented the sports headline.

Otherwise his name might have inspired such screamers as “Ay up Cock!” after he single-handedly demolished Barnsley in the third round of the FA Cup; “Cock-a’Hoop!” as rumours of a summer move to QPR reached the back pages and “Cock a boodle do” after Chelsea doubled his wages.

From three cocks to Trebilcock...

I remember Mike Trebilcock, not as a player but as a card I swapped at school and as a name that, in memory, is always spoken with that peculiar urgency and invisible exclamation mark David Coleman brought to football commentary.

The dramatic cry of “Trebilcock!” must have lodged in my memory after the 1966 FA Cup final in which he scored twice in five minutes for Everton to shatter Sheffield Wednesday.

I seldom heard the name again because, although he was only 22 then, that was as good as it got for Trebilcock.

He was soon shuffled off to Portsmouth (where he was reasonably prolific), Torquay and Weymouth before emigrating to Sydney where, at the tender age of 30, he starred upfront for the Western Suburbs.


As a boy in the fishing village of Gunnislake, Trebilcock read – and dreamt of being – Roy of the Rovers. But scouts rarely made it as far as his council estate.

It took a new neighbour – a woman who knew the Blackpool manager and offered to write a recommendation for the youngster – to persuade the boy Trebilcock his dreams might become reality.

His family couldn’t pay the fare to Blackpool but in a circuitous way, his neighbour’s enthusiasm paid off.

Ellis Stuttard, who managed Plymouth then and had a rare genius for scouting the right 14 and 15 year olds, told him: “You don’t want to go to Blackpool – come to Plymouth it’s nearer home”.

Even so, it was a while before the Trebilcock family were convinced football was a better prospect than working in the quarry.

Trebilcock’s travails may explain why, historically, Cornwall has been one of England’s least significant football counties. (Just above the now defunct Rutland.)

In the old days, scouts returned to hotbeds and feeder clubs – like Wallsend Boys Club, the source of Alan Shearer, Peter Beardsley and Michael Carrick – they knew, and Cornwall wasn’t really on the map.

Today, the trade in footballers is so global, a nearby league club is almost as likely to sign a player from Liberia as Liskeard.

Last season the Pilgrims had no Cornishmen in their first-team squad but did have a Hungarian defender, midfielders hailing from Togo and the Congo and an English-born Austrian striker called Ashley.

Cornwall’s football may prosper if troubled property magnate Kevin Heaney achieves his dream of making Truro City the first Cornish club in the Football League.

The Tinmen, winners of the 2007 FA Vase, have four rungs to climb on the non-league ladder.

As Truro has a population of 20,000 – nearly a third smaller than Accrington’s – such a goal seems on a par with Kevin Costner’s dream of building a baseball stadium on his farm.

The difference being, alas, that dreams come true more often in Hollywood movies than in football.

Truro: Making waves in non-league

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