The Beaches Are Shades Of Amber: Falmouth Town FC

Dec 15, 2022
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If there was any moment of doubt or dread in my mind, I would always find myself strolling up and down the sands of Gyllyngvase Beach. It's soft sands weren't coarse or riddled with pebbles as you would often come to find at most English beaches. And on a warm summer's day you could go barefoot and feel the heat on your toes; reminding you of days spent as a child chasing kites and building sand castles. I can see parents screaming at their children with excited enthusiasm as they rush to the crisp, cool waters of the bay. A shade of teal, but beautiful to look at none the less. I cannot help but be drawn back into the memories of when my parents would bring the family down to Falmouth for the summer holidays.

Our days would be spent unwinding on this very beach, or in the rockpools just a few hundred yards away. Crabbing was always a great pastime but I never quite understood how my father would always end up with more crabs than me. Only years later would I find out it was due to the bait he was putting on the end of his line. The evenings, when the sun was still setting and the air still hot and humid, my family would gather at my grandparents house - situated along Pengarth Rise. My father and Grandfather would often engage in friendly, yet tense, debates about the current news of the day. Often, the topics of discussion would end up on the subject of football and how the game was becoming more modern, much to my Grandfather's distaste. I would usually be perched on a chair in the corner of the room, eavesdropping in on the debate and just absorbing the discussions like a wet sponge. It was enticing and, arguably, one of the highlights of the summer holidays.

But that was a long time ago. All of that was in the past.

I now found myself back in Falmouth for different reasons, and coming to Gyllyngvase Beach felt like the first logical choice in easing my nerves.

My right coat pocket buzzed. A text, I thought.

Pulling out my phone, a notification displayed a brief message. "Parked up and waiting. Let's get cracking."

I walked up the windswept steps from the beach and began glancing at the myriad of cars and vans backlogging the beach's carpark. The tourists were really coming out in force this summer. With the sum beaming down, it was hard to sift through the cars and spot my ride. But, seeing the blue roof of Pantelis' 3-Series BMW at the back of the car park, I powerwalked my way towards the car.

As I proceeded to open the door, the handle remained firmly locked in place. As if right of cue, the window rolled down and, with a beaming smile and his sunshades masking his face, Pantelis - or Panny as I so affectionately call him - began his monologue.

"You know the rules Kasper. No sand in the car. Either brush it off or throw the shoes in the boot."

Sighing, I removed my shoes and proceeded to put them in the boot of the car. In doing so, I was so graciously allowed to enter the car.

"You know, this is the first time this car has seen a beach and yet a tiny bit of sand and you're all paranoid," I said, with a brief chuckle to wrap it up.

As he reversed the car, Panny was quick to retort. "Kasper, it's not you or the sand I'm concerned about. It's the sand and what my missus will do if she finds a grain in this car."

"But it's your car," I replied.

"Bud, I lost possession of this car, along with many other things, the day I asked for her hand in marriage."

There was a brief pause, before the both of us burst into a fit of laughter. This persisted long after we had left the carpark and soon found ourselves driving through the narrow streets in the town centre. Panny, being the ever curious soul that he was, started to probe me with questions about the afternoon ahead.

"So where is this meeting taking place?" He asked.

"One of the Fish n' Chip joints near the dock front," I responded.

"Not Rick Steins gaff I hope!" Panny retorted.

"God no! Don't need to give that overrated sell out any of my money" I couldn't help but laugh before I continued. "It's the joint right by Trago Mills, near where our old student digs were."

I noticed Panny let out a brief smile. "Those were fun days," he said.

I couldn't help but agree with him. I asked Panny that he was more than welcome to join the meeting but he was adamant I run it solo. He trusted me to secure the right deal for the both of us. It's how our friendship worked. He could charm, woo and wow nearly any individual he crossed paths with. But when it came to the logistics, the details and the fine margins, that's where I excelled.

"Okie dokie," Panny said. "Here we are. Best of luck bud. And, if you could, would love some grub when the meeting is done." He let out that cheeky smile.

"Sure," I said. But could you pop open the boot? I would love my 'sand-covered' shoes back."

With my shoes now back on my feet, I waved at Panny as he drove off. Then I proceeded to step inside the fish n' chip joint for what could prove to be a defining meeting...

"Do you like it?" the Voice said.

"I'm sorry," I responded.

Looking across the table, I waited for Graham to finish his bite of the meal. "The haddock. Do you like it?"

"Oh yes. Very much so."

I continued to tuck in to my haddock as I observed Graham. As the chairman of Falmouth Town Football Club, I'd half expected him to a man in a state of delusion of grandeur. Owning a local club, especially in a town as small as this one, elevated your social standing and put you at the heart of the community. But it was interesting to see Graham in the flesh. A self-defined 'realist', he wasn't looking to take the club up the football pyramid within a certain number of years. He wanted it to grow organically with an influx of local talent.

In all honesty, it's what attracted me to the role.

That and a sense of nostalgia: coming home to the holiday town and being reminded of my university years spent at the Penryn Campus of Falmouth University.

But with the meal just about wrapped up, Graham pushed his plate to one side and took a big sip from his mug of tea. A simple builder's brew. I can never understand how anyone can have a hot beverage with fish n' chips. I opted for the glass of Irn-Bru - my Scottish roots really on display.

"How are you settling in?" Graham asked.

I put my glass down. "Good," I said. "I just moved into a place on Burdock Terrace, right near the gallery."

"That's great to hear. And I assume you've already reacquainted yourself with the town?"

"Indeed. I even had an early morning run and did my best to scale Jacobs Ladder in a quick time. Can't say I haven't missed that steep climb"

He let out a chuckle. A nice little ice breaker. This was turning out to be a great afternoon. Though it dawned on me that the real business would be the main topic of this little get together.

Graham clasped both hands and put them on the table. "Have you taken any consideration as to who your Assistant will be?"

I reached into my pocket and pulled out a slip of paper, handing it over to Graham who gave it a glance before responding.

"Can't say he's someone I've heard of. Greek by any chance?"

"Cypriot," I responded.

"But local enough. Panny and I go way back to our days of study at Falmouth University. Both of us played on the University Team and have known each other for nearly a decade. He already has his basic coaching badges and is ready to go."

A brief period of silence fell around us. Has I pushed my luck to bring a close friend into the fold? I was getting anxious.

"I'm sold," Graham responded. "Have him start at the earliest opportunity."

I took a big swig of my drink, knowing a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

The rest of the meeting was spent discussing the budgets for the season ahead. Graham stated that he would put up £1,000 on the weekly wage bill but wouldn't entertain any other financial commitments for the time being. It didn't really faze me, as I knew the target was to secure a mid-table position by the end of the season.

With our business concluded, Graham chucked a couple of notes on the table and said his farewells. I could only sit and stare outside at the harbour and watch the tiny specs of boats either arriving or departing the docks...
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Welcome to Falmouth...

Hello FM Base. I'm Kasper Jameson - an alter-ego and alternative persona I've had since the days of playing Championship Manager. This series will serve as my first story posted on the forums. To say I'm incredibly excited, with a hint of nervousness, would be an understatement. After spending a great deal of time combing through the great writers of this forum - Enrico Pucci and the Alfa Romeo Metaphor Series; Hampus Silverholt; DerbyJack; TheNotSoSpecialOne; etc - I wanted to open my account and begin putting my writings out there on the forum. This is for two reasons: to engage with the wider community on here and, most importantly, to have fun and develop my skills along the way.

After all, in order to grow it always helps to gain the advice and teachings of your peers.

I've never considered myself to be particularly skilled at Football Manager. I've won the occasional titles here and there; taken the minnows to the top and had the privilege of overseeing a few wonderkids flourish for my teams in previous editions. But there was a period where the experience of booting up a new edition of Football Manager became stale: it lacked excitement and I often found myself questioning how I was going to stay engaged for a year's worth of gameplay.

So I went back to the drawing board. I knew I was going to purchase my copy of FM23 - this would be my first purchase since FM20, where I spent three years of real time overseeing the rise of Real Union of Spain, a story I now really regret not documenting. I love not having time constraints on my saves; taking my time to fall in love with the club I'm managing and constructing a feel good story that I can be proud of.

Which is what brings me to my choice of club: Falmouth Town FC. Now, I wouldn't fault anyone for not knowing much about this little football club based in the South West of England. But, it may surprise you that there is a real back story to my selection here. A number of years ago I was completing my Journalism degree at Falmouth University - I was a fresh faced student some 300 miles away from home and football was the focus point of my degree. Every weekend, if my schedule allowed, I would attend games at Bickland Park or on the road, and root on the local club. It wasn't the most exciting football played, but it made me feel more at home in a new town.

Now that we're at the finish line of 2022, I found myself back in Falmouth a few months back visiting a friend who had remained in the town long after we'd graduated from university - he runs a record shop and I found it a great time going to gigs, visiting houses to pick up rare finds for his shop and just listening to classics as we drank cider on his balcony in the late summer sunshine. We also attended a home fixture at Bickland Park and my nostalgia just came back in waves.

Could I manage Falmouth Town on FM? How far could I take them and how long would it take?

Well, I'm here now. I'm managing a club which has me excited for all of the possibilities that could follow. And my aim is to document as much of that here on FM Base. So I hope there will be a handful of you who will join me on this journey, and help guide me on my way!

"Marcello!" I yelled. "Focus! That's two you've missed now!"

I paced around the dugout area, one hand grasping a lukewarm cup of coffee and the other firmly tucked away in my coat pocket. If there was ever game to sum up our pre-season, the fixture against Holsworthy just about did the trick. Two quickfire goals from local lad Clarke Penrice put us in front but then we squandered our two-goal margin before half time. Our defence had collapsed under the pressure and now, with ten minutes played into the second half, it looked like we were ending the pre-season with a fifth consecutive draw.

Lost in my thoughts, I failed to notice Panny standing next to me. If I was angry on the inside, then Panny was showing it on the outside. His animated posturing throughout the match had made it clear to the players that anything but a win would be unacceptable. We both stood still as we saw Marcello Jones break past his marker and dart forward towards the goal. The former AC Milan trainee motioned the ball past the keeper and he was clean through on goal, only to rocket the ball over the cross bar.

I didn't notice that I had dropped my coffee. I couldn't believe it!

"How on earth has he done that?" Panny exclaimed. I was surprised he wasn't running on to the pitch to chase Marcello around the block.

I looked at the bench and signalled Mitch Jackson to get his tracksuit jacket off. "You're up," is all I could say.

I turned back towards to Panny. "Get Marcello off. His night is done. Can't stomach another moment from him."

Panny nodded and jogged over to the fourth official, explaining the change that was about to happen.

Soon enough, Marcello was off the pitch and Mitch Jackson had taken his place. Marcello looked beaten up, and could only look at me with disappointment in his eyes. "I tried, boss," is all the young man could say.

"I know," I said. "Tonight wasn't your night. Now just focus on your warm down, okay."

I went back to the edge of the dugout, where Panny soon joined me. "You're too easy on the kid, you know that!".

"Not really," I said. "You heard the crowd this evening. He knows he put in a dire performance. And I don't need to rub it in his face tonight. That chat will come tomorrow morning."

With the focus now on the match ahead, I couldn't help but feel a sense of guilt by bringing Jackson on. At sixteen-years old, the local lad had only just finished his GCSEs and was now on his way to college. When I went over the team line up with Panny before kick-off, he was a tad surprised at the inclusion.

"What is he studying again?" Panny asked.

"Carpentry, I believe. Though tonight he could be our ace in the hole."

Maybe I had gotten it wrong. To expect so much from such a raw player. Those doubts would soon be put to rest as Jackson, on the edge of the opposition area, sent home a curling effort into the top right corner of the goal. I couldn't help but smile as the dugout and stadium roared in applause.

He would do it once more: this time with a simple tap in from a corner set piece in stoppage time. Sixteen years old and two goals in thirty-four minutes. Not a bad way to make your mark.

But I knew, deep down, we still had a long way to go when the first game of the season arrived.

Two first-half goals from Mani Skett and Marcello Jones was enough for Falmouth Town to take away all of the plaudits with a 2-1 win over Bitton on the opening day of the season.

Skett, who signed for the Ambers on a one-year deal over the summer, got the Ambers off to a flying start as he latched onto a wayward pass from Clarke Penrice. The former Plymouth Argyle academy graduate darted down the opposition half before sending the ball into the bottom left corner of the goal.

The match was dialled up to eleven when Penrice was brought down in the opposition box, with Jones sending the keeper the wrong way from the spot.

The former AC Milan trainee was an ever dangerous presence and continued to test the Bitton defenders throughout the duration of the match.

Bitton were able to halve the deficit, thanks to a headed goal from Gabby Palfrey in the 74th minute. But it was too little too late as the Ambers held their nerve and ensured that their campaign would be off to a winning start.

"The lads did the town a great service today," manager Kasper Jameson said after the match. "We pressed, we attacked and we kept our opponents on the back foot. It was a great display."

"Now our focus is on the FA Cup, and seeing if we can bring that mentality to that fixture."

* * *
The magic of the FA Cup is never lost, no matter how far down the pyramid you may find yourself. I would often spend Saturdays with my father and siblings, sitting in front of the TV and watching the scores unfold. My grandfather, bless his soul, was a bigger fan of Teletext. The neon colours and block text always hurt my eyes, but it always kept my Grandfather well informed - if he wasn’t asleep in his armchair.

But now I found myself in a new place to observe the FA Cup in all its glory. From the dugout, and leading my very own club to new found heights. Or so, that was the hope.

The night before the tie, I had invited Panny and his other half, Jessica, to my house for a home cooked meal. For me, it was a great excuse to unwind and enjoy an evening of company with two close friends. For the both of them, it was the first night in seven months that they’d been able to free up following the birth of their daughter.

Despite the circumstances of our coming together, I could only express gratitude as they sat and ate at my table. The topics of conversation went on through the night, never discussing football once. We talked about our days together at university; the lost years spent in London trying to navigate doomed careers and our return to the South West.

Perhaps it was the wine, but I began to feel very sentimental. Seeing my best friend bring his family along for our journey with Falmouth Town: it added a fresh perspective. Knowing that success both on and off of the pitch would impact our futures greatly. Everything felt very intertwined.

As our evening came to a close, I found myself sitting on the front porch - wine in hand and being lost in thought. Panny came outside to keep me company, leaving Jessica to fall asleep on the living room couch. One too many glasses of wine seemed to have gotten to her. Poor thing.

Panny patted me on the shoulder as came to take a seat beside me. He knew what was on my mind.

"I wouldn't worry too much about tomorrow, bud," he said, taking a swig of his wine.

I sighed, knowing he was right.

"I'm not. But I do want to do the town proud come kick off."

"Then let's just go out guns blazing and put on a real show," said Panny. "After all, the Cup won't define our time here. It's a marathon, not a sprint, remember."

I nodded in silence, as we both stared at the first glimpses of sunlight coming over the horizon...