FALMOUTH Town captain Joe Cooper has joined Porthleven, ending a seven-year spell at Bickland Park.

Centre-back Cooper joined the club in 2013 and went on to make 285 appearances for Town, scoring 14 goals.

Many of those appearances were made as captain, with Cooper leading his side to victory in both the Walter C Parson League Cup final in 2018 and Cornwall Senior Cup final in 2019, scoring the equaliser in the 2-1 win over Saltash United in the latter.

Manager Andrew Westgarth said: “I’m disappointed to see Coops leave. [He’s been an] unbelievable servant to the football club and it’s a shame when these things happen but I wish him all the best for the future.”

He added: “He’s been a mainstay at the club and probably the most successful captain in Falmouth’s history over the last 20 years.

“He’s got a lot to be proud of: Being captain for that long, having that many appearances and probably the ultimate triumph of lifting the Senior Cup and scoring that goal, which was a great goal, an unbelievable strike.

“A sad day for me personally, a sad day for the football club and I’m sure a sad day for him, which I hope he doesn’t live to regret.”

This is The West Country:

Westgarth (right) presents Cooper (left) with a commemorative tankard in 2018 after the centre-back made his 200th appearance for Town. Pic: Colin Higgs

Part of Cooper’s decision to move on has been borne out of his desire for regular first-team football, which has been limited lately due to the fine form of Toby Clark and the return of both Tom Annear and former long-term centre-back partner James Ward.

Westgarth expressed his disappointment with Cooper’s decision to leave, saying: “This is not the way any of us saw him leaving the club and I’m sure he never saw himself leaving the football club this way or this early. That is the disappointing thing, the fact he’s going to, not slip away, but go without the send-off he probably deserves.”

Cooper formed an excellent partnership with fellow central defender Ward during his time, and Ward - who has had brief spells with Truro City and Plymouth Parkway recently - will replace his departing team-mate as club captain.

Goalkeeper Ryan Barnes, who is set to make his 200th appearance for Town against Launceston on Saturday, will remain as vice-captain.

Westgarth said: “He’ll be a fantastic captain and I know people might question the fact that the last couple of years he has obviously moved on, but I think both times he has tried to better himself and we can’t forget that. There’s nothing wrong with people wanting to do that in life.

“Hopefully he’s back now to stay, and giving him the armband should give him the stature at the club that he can live up to.”

Fishermen boss Graham Blake was delighted to bring Cooper to the club, saying: “I’m really, really pleased about it. I had a good long chat with him last night [Wednesday]. I’d obviously heard he’d left Falmouth for whatever reason, but I looked at it as a great opportunity to get another experienced player in with our youngsters.

“The chat with Joe last night was really positive with what we’re trying to do at the club and he really bought into it and is looking forward to a new challenge.”

He added: “It takes a little bit of pressure off Hughie [Howlett] as well as he’s obviously the skipper and he’s got the youngsters playing with him, and if you bring Joe in as well it takes the load off Hughie a little bit as well.

“They can almost bounce off each other. I’ve got two experienced centre-halves now and I’ve got two youthful centre-halves who hopefully will be the next Joe and Hughie if you like!”

Blake thanked Westgarth for waiving the mandatory seven-day grace period, although Cooper is unavailable for the trip to Bodmin Town this weekend anyway, but he is in line to make his debut in next Saturday’s game at home to Camelford.

The Cooper coup completed a fine week for Blake, who also secured the return of right-back Ed Timmons at the weekend.

Timmons left the club to join Helston Athletic at the end of 2019, but he returned to make his latest appearance in the yellow shirt of Porthleven in Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at home to Mousehole.

“I love Ed to bits, and I understood why he went to Helston and what’s been offered, and I kind of feel for him a little bit how it’s ended up,” Blake said. 

“But some managers are different to me. Some can be quite brutal, and I like to be a player’s friend as well as a manager. There’s more to football than football and results.

“He decided he wanted to come back. He didn’t look at any other club, Porthleven was where he wanted to be, so I had a chat with him, and it was a no-brainer again.”