There are very few people who can enjoy the honour of being synonymous with a football club but Falmouth Town manager Andrew Westgarth is certainly one of them.
It may not have been the right result on the night, but Town’s recent Cornwall Senior Cup defeat at home to Wendron United saw Westgarth achieve a proud milestone in one of the most impressive managerial tenures in Cornish sport as he celebrated his 300th match in charge.
After leaving Helston Athletic to rejoin his hometown club as player-manager in 2015, few would have predicted the monumental turnaround in fortunes that Westgarth, affectionately known by most as Westy, has spearheaded at Bickland Park over the last seven years.
After a transitional first couple of seasons, Westgarth claimed his maiden managerial trophy with the Walter C Parson League Cup in 2018 before ending the club’s 23-year wait for a Cornwall Senior Cup crown the following year.
The covid-curtailed campaigns in 2020 and 2021 could have derailed that momentum, but Town roared back last season to claim a stunning treble and clinch promotion back to the Western League after 39 years away.
Success has not been limited to on-pitch matters, with Bickland Park having been transformed from a tired, old ground with very few spectators into a vibrant venue that regularly sees attendances well into their hundreds – and housed almost 1,200 supporters for Town’s Boxing Day triumph over Penryn Athletic last season.
While he is certainly not the sole reason for this turnaround in fortunes, Westgarth has played a vital role in rejuvenating the club over the last seven years, and the 38-year-old is ‘immensely proud’ of his reign at Bickland Park thus far.
“It’s gone quite quickly when you look back on it, 300 games is mental really,” Westgarth said. “I lost out on 50 [matches] because of covid so I could be a little bit further up the list, but I’m immensely proud and hopefully there’s more to come.
“The pleasing thing is getting the club back to where it should be. The club is healthy on the pitch and off the pitch and Bickland Park and Falmouth Town is an enjoyable day out and it’s got the town buzzing.
“I’m just as proud of that as the trophies, but obviously football is about winning stuff and if I was to leave tomorrow I’d be immensely proud of what the club has achieved, and I’ve helped that happen.”
Falmouth Town chairman Graham Medlin was the man who brought Westgarth back to the club as player-manager in 2015, and while he admits his decision was a gamble at the time, he could not be more thrilled with how that decision has panned out.
“It’s a brilliant achievement,” Medlin said. “When I appointed him no-one would have expected him to be here that long, but he’s done an amazing job for the club – not only on the field but behind the scenes as well, which most people don’t see. I think it was a good appointment. It was a risky one, but it’s paid off both on the field and off it.
“If you think about what clubs want, you only have to look around the ground and see what’s been done and he was a big instigator in all of that. If you look at what he’s won on the field, he’s up there with some of the top managers that have been at this club.
“He’s done a tremendous job. I think it shocked a few people when we appointed him, there were a few people saying it was a panic appointment. But the way I was thinking at the time was that we’ve tried all of the managers who have been around the circuit and it’s time to give it to some young blood, and luckily for us it’s worked out.”
“I’d always hold a lot of gratitude to Graham for taking the gamble on me,” Westgarth added. “It was something I always wanted to do. I was always very interested in management, with my dad being a manager. I always thought it’d be a natural progression, but obviously not that early [in my career].
“It’s a role I love and I’ve got the full support of the chairman. Win or lose, he’s the first to speak to me after games. I couldn’t have asked for a better chairman and the support I get from him and the club has definitely made my life at the club easier and more enjoyable.”
Former first-team coach Charlie Davis was brought to the club by Westgarth in 2016 and played a big supporting role in Town’s recent success, and he paid a glowing tribute to the man who has driven it all.
“To manage or be involved in any sports club for 300 games is an outstanding achievement and takes a considerable amount of commitment and time,” Davis said. “To do this and achieve such successes is just fantastic and a wonderful contribution to the local community.
“Whilst Andrew should take great credit for the on-field improvement and the vastly improved cup and league successes the club have enjoyed in recent years, it should also be mentioned the off-field work that he has been instrumental in coordinating.
“When Andrew took over the ground was tired, the clubhouse and business side of the football club was in a desperate situation and we had an average attendance under 50.
“Fast forward seven years and the ground has, and continues to be improved and maintained properly, the club has a sustainable revenue stream and booming clubhouse whilst boasting the best attendance of any team in the county.
“In conversation, past players, teams and managers will often be mentioned and the many wonderful things they have done for Falmouth Town Football Club. It is often hard to comprehend this in the present day, but, I do feel that it’s not an exaggeration to say that Andrew will be mentioned in the same way, in years to come.
“Those who know him well take great joy in the passion he has for the club and his relentless efforts to improve and achieve more success.”
At 38 years old, Westgarth is in an enviable position of having racked up 300 games in charge whilst still being a relatively young age for a manager, so what are his thoughts on getting in another 300 games?
“You’d have to ask my missus on that!” he laughed. “Honestly, I’d be proud to stay as long as the club want me. I think there’s definitely more miles in the journey and there’s going to be a few ups and downs and bumps in the road, but that’s the joy of football.
“When the good times come you really need to savour them and enjoy them, and when the bad times are there you’ve got to work hard to try and get those good days again.”
South West Peninsula League Premier West: 2021/22
Cornwall Senior Cup: 2018/19, 2021/22
Walter C Parson League Cup: 2017/18
SWPL Charity Bowl: 2018
SWPL Champions Bowl: 2021/22