The Groundsman

April 2015

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Visit www.iog.org for more information and digital editions IOG BEST PRACTICE 17 the Groundsman April 2015 In addition to 14 youth teams, eight adult male and three adult female teams, the club is host to nine mini soccer, six 9 x 9 and two disability teams, and the ground is used weekly by De Montfort University teams, the South Leicestershire FC College, Leicestershire Fire Brigade teams and various local youth leagues for cup finals. Bob, a retired police officer, is chairman of the club that was established in 1968, and he has been involved in the pitch care duties for the past 25 years. "Working shift systems in the past enabled me to come down to the club and jump on a mower for some much-needed stress relief," says the 64-year-old. "In those early days I used a small tractor and an ageing three-gang mower, and we would sand dress the pitches by hand-spading four-tonne loads from a trailer." Things are a lot different today with the club having an impressive collection of maintenance machinery (see panel, below). "Certainly in my early days with the police I was the community police officer and therefore naturally got involved with youth work. The local estate was adorned with lots of 'no ball games' signs so the kids who wanted to play football needed somewhere to go. It was our mission, therefore, to provide adequate facilities. I often wonder what would have happened to the likes of Gary Lineker if our standard of football pitches wasn't here for them." With no formal groundsmanship training, Bob firmly believes that, like most things in life, "you either have a natural knack for it, or you don't..." "It is curious but groundsmen seem to instinctively know when the pitch needs some fertiliser, for example," he says. "Groundsmanship is a vocation, like being a policeman I suppose. The job becomes part of you; you have a love for it." That said, he is also keen to point out that there is no shortage of information about the 'science' of turf care, not least from the technical reps who regularly visit. The club has six adult 11 v 11 pitches, one also accommodating a 9 v 9 pitch, an additional 9 v 9 pitch and three 7 v 7/5 v 5 pitches. Two are floodlit; the main pitch has drainage at 7m centres, and there is an irrigation system with six take-off points fed from a 6,000-gallon tank. All pitches undergo regular BLEC Groundbreaker treatment (to a depth of 7inches) at least twice a year as part of the pitch maintenance programme. All are overseeded with Limagrain MM60 and kept at 1.5 inches high. Around 300 tonnes of sand is laid on them every year. Forty three teams use Aylestone Park FC sports facilities, including three adult women's teams Aylestone Park FC's Bob Stretton and Nathan Cramp have at their disposal: • 72hp MM 70 Kubota tractor with front loader, and a John Deere 4300 tractor • Three-point linkage machines – BLEC Aerovator with seed attachment, BLEC 1.8m Groundbreaker, Mourano 1.2 vibratory seeder • Three Wessex rotary roller mowers (2m, 2.4m and 3m Proline), plus two pedestrian rotor mowers • SISIS Maxi Slitter and SISIS roller and brush twin-play. Aylestone Park FC has a trading arm that for the past 10 years has been offering this machinery (and the services of Nathan and Bob) on a contracting basis to local sites, "at a fraction of the cost" they could pay. "Nobody around here 10 years ago would have their pitches fertilsed, but they clearly see the benefits of regular weeding, seeding and feeding," says Bob. Machinery Matters t

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