ytfc.net spoke to Head Groundsman Richard Allsworth about the challenges he faces to get the pitch ready for every game, his preparations in the close season and his pet hates on a matchday.
He said: “The last game of the season was the Charity Day so pretty much straight after that we started renovations.
“Three weeks and two days after seeding, the pitch is in pretty good shape and it is almost ready for playing on.
“We’ve been working on the training ground as well, trying to get the pitches ready for the players coming back on the 1st of July and they’re looking pretty good as well so we’re in good shape.”
Allsworth recognises that the close season is the most important time of year for his job as it can save him time and prevent problems occurring later on in the year.
He added: “January and February is the hardest time to keep the pitch to the best possible standard because the grass just isn’t going to do anything.”
“Every hour spent now will save us an hour a week for the rest of the season. If the pitches are absolutely superb at the start then they won’t go downhill that quickly at all.”
Being in the groundsman profession, he realises that his job heavily relies on the weather and it is something that he has to monitor hourly.
Allsworth (pictured below) said: “I’ve got to plan my week around it. Today we are flat out because we are expecting thunderstorms this afternoon and evening into Saturday.
“It’s great because we could use some rain desperately but we’re trying to get everything done because we know soon we won’t be able to do much.
“We have to watch the weather throughout the year because there are certain things you can’t do in certain weather conditions.
“Every season brings its own challenge. Right now the grass won’t stop growing but then in winter you can’t get it to grow at all.”
Allsworth has a small team to help him keep the pitches looking their best but also appreciates the management team’s assistance in preserving the grass.
He said: “I’ve got two full-time staff and two part-time that help out around when we need it. On match days we try to run with six grounds men. Other than that we’ve got quite a small team for the work we do.
“Darren Way and Terry Skiverton have always been pretty good at listening to me when it comes to their warm-ups. If they’re going to start wearing out one patch, they will move around for me.”
However, the Head Groundsman does get a little hot under the collar if a player performs one particular celebration on the pitch after scoring.
He added: “I think probably the biggest wind-up is when a pre-Madonna player slides through the six-yard box on his knees after scoring and tearing chunks out of the pitch. Goalies digging their heels in on the six-yard line is another constant bugbear.”
You would expect matchdays to be a busy time for Allsworth and his staff but he prefers to have the majority of preparation done beforehand to guard against any mechanical failures which could cause a game to be postponed.
Allsworth admitted: “We always start quite late on a matchday because we’ve got quite a small team of groundsmen but if you go to Premier League clubs then they’ll have eight full-time grounds men working on the stadium pitch alone. They’ll go in on a Saturday morning and cut the pitch three times. I haven’t got the mowers or the staff to do that.
“It’s almost a risk to far because if I came in at 8 o’clock and started cutting the grass then my mower breaks, I’ve only got one replacement. It’s not the same mower, I’d have to go to the training ground to get it and suddenly it could end up not being finished for the game so we try to get everything done on the Friday. Then normally we come in on Saturday around 11 or 12 o’clock just to make sure everything is alright and meet the referee when he turns up two hours before kick-off.”
Over the past couple of seasons, the emergence of pitch patterning has taken hold. Clubs up and down the country have shafted the traditional pitch design to try something more innovative. Circles, zigzags and diagonal cutting have been the order of the day as groundsmen try patterning their beloved grass. Allsworth is no different, although he acknowledges he would only experiment if there was nothing riding on the game.
He said: “I have done some patterning for the last game of the past two seasons. Most groundsmen do if there’s nothing resting on the game and they’ve got time then they’ll have a little play. You only do it if there is nothing resting on the game though because the last thing you want is to be hunting for a Playoff spot and the Manager turns around and blames you for doing silly circles.”
“I’ve been given pretty much been given free reign to do what I do and the club has complete faith in me which is a nice position to be in.”