The Groundsman

March 2015

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ASK THE EXPERT 19 the Groundsman March 2015 Visit for more information and digital editions By all accounts it wasn't a very nice ground at that time? No. It was depressing to look at. It was always cold, even in the summer. Other teams didn't like that - especially the batsmen who always knew they would get a green wicket with plenty of grass on it. It never turned much at Derby, only later in the summer. How many staff did you have? Staff? You must be joking. There was a chap who helped me when he could, but everything else was down to me. Later on I did get some help from youngsters via the Youth Training Scheme. But they weren't interested, with the exception of one - Steve Birks, a good lad who was willing to listen and graft. Steve went on to become a very well-regarded groundsman at Trent Bridge, of course. Did you ever get asked to prepare specific kinds of wickets? My wickets were always green tops for the Derbyshire seamers. I remember once when the chairman of the England selectors commented that "the pitch looks a bit green today". I replied: "Have you ever seen grass any other colour?" That said, after the first hour the green had gone and if you could bat, you could score runs. In 1939 war broke out. What did that mean for you? I was in the army from 1940 to 1946. I was N/T Sergeant in the 14 Sherwood Foresters and served in North Africa as part of the Desert Rats, as well as fighting at Anzio, among many other places. What happened after the war? I came back on a month's leave in August 1946. At the camp, there were five other cricket groundsmen and they were all brought home in the June of that year to return to their former duties. There was a match on at Derby in the August, a three-day game against Gloucestershire, and I was asked to go along. They asked me what I thought of the wicket and I told them that the square and the ground as a whole were shocking. That's when I was asked to come back to the club. The era of uncovered wickets must have been challenging for groundsmen? Yes. We used to cover an area 4ft 6 inches in front of the popping crease and the rest was left open to the elements. The umpires had to decide when play was possible and the bowlers were always more keen to get on with it than the batsmen. "You couldn't help but learn because Walter knew it all" Trent Bridge's Steve Birks had his start in groundsmanship with Walter Goodyear, spending 12 months with him at the County Ground from 1981 to 1982. "He was the biggest single influence on my career, without a doubt," says Steve. "He was quite a fearsome character and a lot of people were terrified of him. But he took me under his wing and I remember he would tell me to fetch my flask and we'd go on to the square and have our lunch, or a tea break. If you listened to him, you couldn't help but learn, because he knew it all. "Walter is one of the greatest characters I have met in the game," Steve adds. "The man is a legend and anything I have achieved in the game of cricket owes a great deal to Walter Goodyear." t Walter (left) at the County Ground in Derby with the then club captain and subsequent assistant secretary of the MCC, Donald Carr Walter recently celebrated his 98th birthday

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