Is Falmouth’s Melville Benney Britain’s oldest football boss?
He’s not in the realm of the big bucks – the multi-millionaires who “earn” six-figure sums every week at the pinnacle of sport, writes Mike Truscott.
In fact, he never took a penny from the game (but he put quite a bit into it).
I’m talking about Melville Benney…and he’s possibly Britain’s longest-serving football boss.
Now 71, the retired Falmouth-based postman is in his 55th season as manager.
With rarely more than a few weeks break in between, and often no break at all, he was in charge of 16 Cornish junior football teams.
He received high profile recognition for his services to the game – which covered far more than just team coaching – and spanned the generations managing over 30 fathers and sons.
He even guided a grandfather-son-and grandson.
It all started when he was part of a group of school children who played the game in Falmouth’s Kimberley Park virtually every night of the week.
They came up with the idea of a team and thus were born the Kimberley Park Rangers and manager Mel.
They played friendly matches at the city’s Dracaena Avenue ground or in Mylor and news of their excitement, if not a major success, spread quickly.
Those who heard of him included two Falmouth Post Office workers, Dennis Parry and Mike Rowe, who approached him one evening in the park.
They explained that they entered the County Youth League only to find they couldn’t form a team.
Would the rangers want to become postmen and would Melville lead them?
It was yes on both counts, with Mel now heading the GPO Wasps, which would later become simply known as the Falmouth GPO.
Melville Benney – Britain’s longest-serving football boss?
The move from the GPO took place at the start of the 1968–69 season and one of Melville’s first concerns was how to transport his team – all school-aged and too young to drive – to away games.
He found a benefactor in Peter James at the Falmouth YMCA, who put on a trainer out of his own pocket.
This bond was strengthened the following season when the Melville players became the YMCA team.
Since then he has managed Falmouth GPO (again for about 15 years), Penryn Athletic Under-18s, Mylor, Mabe, Falmouth Docks reserves, Falmouth Town thirds, Falmouth Town Under-16s, Falmouth Albion, Falmouth Youth Club, Falmouth DC ( Dracaena Centre), Falmouth United (his current club), Perranwell and Falmouth Athletic.
He also helped Keith Rashleigh manage Helston Athletic’s reserves in the Cornwall Combination League.
It was the highest level he has ever achieved, but the highlight of his ‘career’ – so far – was taking Falmouth GPO to the final of the National Post Office Knockout Competition in 1994.
Falmouth, the competition’s smallest office, lost 1-0 to Leith, Edinburgh.
The match was played at Leith ground, which meant a 1,160 mile round trip for the Cornish boys.
The Post Office itself provided a luxury coach and top class hotel accommodation – although the coach broke down in Plymouth on the way up, arrival at the hotel being delayed for up to 3 o’clock in the morning the morning of the game!
The epic cup run did not go unnoticed in high places and it helped Melville win the FA’s Long Service To Football award, given in 2018.
Greg Clarke, head of the FA Council, told him: “No company has been too small to deserve your attention, and you are more appreciated than you think.”
These additional duties have included the roles of Club Secretary and, currently, Trelawny League Secretary.
“They asked me if I could do it temporarily, just for a few weeks or so.
” It was two years ago !
“If there’s a job to be done at a club, I’ve probably done it.
“I’ve set up the goal nets, applied emergency first aid, even picked up dog damage on a pitch before a game!
“I have been very lucky, however, to have first-class assistants over the years.
These have included Dave Spear with Falmouth Albion and Terry Pellow for a number of years; without Terry, I wouldn’t have continued.”
Melville’s wife of 42 years, Teresa, is not a football fan and should be called the quintessential ‘football widow’.
“Every year she tells me I’m useless and should give it up,” he laughs.
“She is very tolerant, like all my family.”
This includes his daughter Sarah, who told him 13 years ago that she was getting married on a Saturday during football season.
“You can’t do that,” he said.
“But it’s settled, Dad,” Sarah pleaded.
“I don’t care, you’ve had all summer to choose. You’re going to have to change it,” Melville replied.
She did, of course.
Thanks in part to Sarah’s indulgence, he has now gone 41½ years without missing a game involving one of his teams.
And, health permitting, Melville will only quit by choice if he finds he’s no longer enjoying it – “and I’m not considering that any time soon!”