Members of Wendron United Football Club paid an emotional tribute to their chairman at their Underlane ground yesterday.
Wendron played host to Liskeard Athletic in the clubâs first match since the death of Kevin Williamson, who diedÂ last Sunday.
Although they put in a sterling effort, they were unable to prevent Liskeard from winning the Cornwall Charity Cup quarter-final tie by one goal to nil, but the result didnât matter. The day was about remembering a Wendron icon.
The match took place seven days after their last; an historic Cornwall Senior Cup quarter-final victory at home to local rivals Porthleven, which saw the Dron reach the semi-final for the first time in the clubâs history.
But the result was quickly forgotten when Mr Williamson collapsed in the home dressing room shortly after full-time.
A team of First Aiders were able to revive him using a defibrillator and he was taken to Treliske Hospital by Cornwall Air Ambulance, but the father-of-three passed away on Sunday afternoon.
Mr Williamson joined the club in the early 1990s and went on to play a major role in most parts of the football and cricket club, including a stint as joint-manager of the football clubâs first team alongside fellow club stalwart Peter Thorne.
He served on Wendronâs committee for a number of years and, in November 2007, was elected chairman â a position he has held since, always being returned unopposed at the AGM.
In recent years, he has raised many thousands of pounds of grants and prizes from various community funds that have provided vital cash for ground improvements, like spectator accommodation, disabled access, solar panels and solar batteries.
The Wendron United first team, coaching staff and various club officials, with members of Mr Williamson’s family
The decision was made to postpone the second, third and fourth team fixtures on Saturday as a mark of respect, but the first teamâs cup match with Liskeard went ahead in the hope that people would turn out in their droves to celebrate the life of a man who had given so much to the club.
And so it proved. More than 200 people turned up despite an ominous weather forecast to show their support to the club and pay their respects to Mr Williamson.
To put that number into perspective, it was more than double the number of those in attendance for the previous weekâs historic Senior Cup tie against Porthleven.
That support was not limited to the Wendron faithful, with members of local rivals Helston Athleticâs reserve side turning up after their match at St Agnes was postponed.
Those that had turned up were able to do so for free with the club waiving gate receipts for the game, instead collecting donations for Cornwall Air Ambulance which, according to a post on the clubâs Twitter page on Saturday evening, had reached ÂŁ1,195 and was still rising.
Attendees were also given a special edition of âThe Wendron Whirlwindâ match programme, which was dedicated to Mr Williamson.
Inside was a statement from the Cornwall FA who offered their condolences, while first-team manager Jack Greenwood recalled the events of the previous week and paid his own tribute in his programme notes, as did Mr Williamsonâs sons and daughter: Adam, Simon and Claire.
Another page told the tale of Kevinâs love story with Wendron, another was a heartfelt tribute from Club President Joss Bray, while the centrefold displayed a picture montage with nostalgic images from his time with the cricket and football clubs.
In a break from the usual match routine, the Wendron squad came out 25 minutes before kick-offÂ for a series of club photographs, together with some of Mr Williamsonâs family.
Wendron football chairman Peter Thorne addresses the crowd before the game
While the team returned to the dressing room to prepare for the match, Peter Thorne delivered an emotional speech to everyone in attendance, in which he asserted that the field across the road used for overflow car parking would be full by the time the game kicked off. He wasnât too far off.
The team returned for kick-off and, alongside the Liskeard Athletic players, made their way onto the pitch with Marching On Together, the anthem of Mr Williamsonâs beloved Leeds United, ringing from the PA system.
The players and coaching staff from both sides, along with the match officials, made their way to the centre circle, where three wreathes had been laid, for a minuteâs silence which was impeccably observed.
The emotional and touching pre-match tributes were over and it was time for the players to take centre stage.
The teams emerge from the dressing rooms ahead of kick-off
Wendron began the game well and carved a decent number of chances, although it was Liskeardâs James Lorenz who had the best opportunity of the half. His six-yard strike was, however, denied by the boot of Wendron âkeeper Dan Stedman, who is one of the latest in a long line of graduates of Wendronâs impressive youth football setup, with Mr Williamson havingÂ played a big role in its success over the years.
The home side stepped up their efforts in the second half and left Liskeardâs goal leading a charmed life. Striker Rory Jarvis had a shot saved before his cross was smashed against the post by a visiting defender. Jarvis then put another shot inches wide before midfielder Cameron Wheat dropped another onto the roof of the net.
Those misses would prove crucial as Liskeard, who have not been beaten in any of their 16 league games this season, scored the only goal of the game with 20 minutes to go when Lyle Johnson took aim from 25 yards and found the bottom corner.
The hosts battled to the very end but could not find a way past visiting âkeeper Jamie Blatchford, as Liskeard held on to book their spot in the semi-finals.
Beaten on the scoreboard but certainly not in spirit, the players were clapped off the pitch by the supporters who recognised the effort the team had showed in difficult circumstances.
Wendron United midfielder Cameron Wheat (right) in action during Saturday’s game
After the game, Greenwood told the Packet: âMy overriding feeling at the minute is one of pride. In terms of the way the club has acted this week everyone, particularly the boys.
âI didnât think it would happen but at the back of my mind I was like: âI just hope we donât falter, I hope we show up today,â and the boys couldnât have done any more.”
Greenwood went on to praise the club for the way they had dealt with the events of last week, saying: âI think the club have, from start to finish, just conducted themselves fantastically.
âItâs been a real rollercoaster of a week and not for good reasons, from the moment that Pete [Thorne] called me to go and help with Kevin and the way that everyone reacted to that in the immediate aftermath and Sunday, to the way the club has presented today has been just second to none.
âI know Iâm biased and itâs my club but Wendron is a special club, as is every club, but itâs a real family feel here and the amount of people that have turned out to see Kevin but ultimately show their respects to Wendron, which is a club that Kevin has been so instrumental in getting to where it is today, like I say, itâs just a massive feeling of pride from me today.
âWe conducted ourselves really, really well and I think everyone should be really pleased with how theyâve behaved this week, itâs been a fantastic effort.â
The tributes to Mr Williamson moved from the pitch to the clubhouse where many people had stayed on after the game to raise a glass to the man.
With that the day was over, but there is little doubt that his legacy will live on forever at the club.
The club will hope to continue Mr Williamson’s fine work in the future, with Joss Bray acknowledging in his tribute that the club will hope to fulfill his wish for the club to obtainÂ floodlights.
But Saturday was all about celebrating what he had done for the club thus far.
Greenwood echoed this sentiment when he signed off his programme notes, saying: âEnjoy the game Kevin, this one is for you.â