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Non League Football Under The Microscope

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BuiltWithNOF

Eastbourne Borough fans celebrate - August Bank Holiday Monday 2003                                Photograph by Sam Hicks

St. Austell FC

Poltair Park
Trevarthian Road
St Austell
Cornwall
PL25 4LY

Telephone: 01726 66099

Website

Nickname: The Lilywhites

Stand

Poltair Road End

Far goal

Far touchline

Founded as far back as 1890, St. Austell FC have only had two grounds in their long history: Rocky Park, and their current home at Poltair Park. St. Austell were founder members of the South Western League in 1951 and have been ever-present since that opening season when they finished 3rd (of twelve) behind arch-rivals St. Blazey and champions Torquay United.

Surprisingly, the Lilywhites have won the league just once - in 1968/69 - but have been runners-up on four occasions. In recent years however, seasons have been marked by a perennial struggle, although a sixth place in 2003/04 was their highest finish in over a decade.

The ‘Groundtastic’ duo Paul Claydon and Vince Taylor have described Poltair Park as a ‘Cornish classic with nostalgia oozing from every corner’. If I’m brutally honest it was difficult to agree with such hyperbole when I visited Poltair Park during the 2004 close season. It was even more difficult to imagine that an estimated 15,000 people once crammed into the ground to watch the home side take on Penzance in the 1949 Cornish Senior Cup Final.

Having said that, there is every possibility that Poltair Park may soon be well on the way to being restored to its former glory. On the June morning of my visit, there was no shortage of activity at the ground with both Chairman and 1st team manager hard at work - a scenario so typical of many clubs up and down the Non League pyramid.

As can be seen from the accompanying photographs, the Poltair Road End of the ground was in the process of having hard standing and an upper bank created; whilst the area beyond the far touchline was having work carried out to improve drainage off the pitch. The grass bank at the far end was a little overgrown but no doubt plans were also afoot to remedy that as well.

Most enthusiasts who visit Poltair Park (me included) are drawn to the ground by virtue of its rather unusual concrete stand of 1930s vintage. Perhaps Peter Miles’ adjective of ‘spectacular’ is over- egging it a little, but it is certainly unique. The asbestos roof is due for replacement but thank goodness the club recognises its prime asset and is resisting pulling the whole structure down and replacing it with something more mundane.

Viewed from the front, it somehow reminds me of an enormous bird watchers’ hide, with its narrow aperture through which to watch the action below from the benches within. The changing rooms are housed within the stand, with the seating reached via an unusual double stariway at the front. Behind the stand, and at the far end of the car park is the clubhouse, built in 1982.

I have seen numerous photographs of Poltair Park looking much better than on my visit. However, it’s interesting to reflect on how the ground might have looked had the club accepted an offer for development by the US forces who were using it during WW2. By all accounts there was an offer to not only level the pitch, but also to build a stand behind one of the goals. For reasons unknown, the club turned them down!  As a consequence, Poltair Park has existed in something of a time-warp ever since and is one of the few grounds in the SW League still not to have floodlights.

Ground details
Capacity: 4,000
Seats: 200
Floodlights: No

Directions
From the A390 turn into Woodland Road from the roundabout opposite Sainsburys. At the crossroads turn left into Alexandra Road and right at the roundabout into Kings Avenue. Take the next right into Carlyon Road and left at the roundabout into Poltair Road (it’s easier than it sounds!)

By rail
St. Austell (BR) 5 minutes walk.