The Groundsman

January 2015

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LIFETIME AWARD WINNER 26 the Groundsman January 2015 Visit for more information and digital editions hen Derek Walder collected his Lifetime Achievement Award at the Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG) Industry Awards, it was no surprise to the 400-strong audience of groundscare experts, influential sports administrators and dignitaries from sports governing bodies that he immediately attributed winning the award to the fact that, in his words, "I have a great team that works with me and it's thanks to them that I have been honoured with this award". But everyone who knows 77-year-old Derek also knows that the award has been presented to him by the industry he has served diligently for half a century or more. The award fully recognises his individual talents as a team leader and site manager at the IOG's annual SALTEX Sports Amenity & Landscape Trade Exhibition as much as it does his expertise as an experienced horticulturist and groundsman. W There's no 'i' in 'team', says Mr SALTEX Derek Walder, winner of the 2014 IOG Everris & Syngenta Lifetime Achievement Award, talks about life after the Wimbledon FC 'crazy gang' and his role as 'Mr SALTEX' By: Colin Hoskins But he's the first to exclaim that there's no 'i' in 'team'; "I am surrounded each year at SALTEX by a great bunch of guys who consistently commit 100 per cent to the show and to its success," he adds. Discovering groundsmanship He reflects on how he entered the industry: "My father was a manager of a private estate and I wanted to follow in his footsteps by joining his team. But dad would not hear of that – he didn't want to risk being accused of favouritism if I became part of that team – so I went off and got a job elsewhere as a garden lad. I progressed, moving up to become head gardener, and it was then that I discovered that I really enjoyed looking after the lawns. From there I moved into golf, becoming a greenkeeper at Sandy Lodge Golf Club in Hertfordshire. Then I moved into the maintenance of sports surfaces at Richard Evans Playing Fields in Roehampton. "The site was used by Fulham FC as its training ground; then Wimbledon FC used it for training until the club moved to Milton Keynes. I decided then to take early retirement because, basically, without the Wimbledon 'Crazy Gang' I knew that 'work' wouldn't be the same." Wimbledon's crazy gang The Crazy Gang was a nickname used by the media to describe the Wimbledon football players during the 1980s and '90s. The name was used because of the often eccentric and boisterously macho- behaviour of the players, who frequently played outrageous practical jokes on each other and on the club's manager Dave Bassett. Dave, who was team manager from 1981 to 1987, says that he well remembers Derek's groundscare expertise: "Derek produced pristine pitches for us. But he would often remonstrate with me saying I was in charge of a rabble; a team of people who were in serious need of some discipline. I would agree with him on the spot, of course, but then promptly ignore his advice! That said, I'm glad to see that Derek is still working, still progressing and still receiving awards for his work." Derek continues: "I have so many fond memories of the 26 years I spent at the club and especially of the Crazy Gang and the antics of the likes of Vinnie Jones." He says one classic memory of his time at Wimbledon was when the club won the FA Cup (in 1988 against Liverpool) and he was entrusted with the [solid silver] cup's safekeeping overnight until it was collected for the next day's open-top bus parade. He says he got very little sleep that night worrying about the responsibility of having such a valuable trophy in the house! Derek with the Duke of Kent at SALTEX 2009

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