The Groundsman

February 2016

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IOG BEST PRACTICE 23 the Groundsman February 2016 Visit for more information and digital editions youth squads because lost games mean lost revenue from gate receipts, bar sales and raffl e income," Loucas says. "But the pitch just wouldn't allow that. It was prone to fl ooding (with two rivers surrounding the ground we have a very high water table) so was very muddy during the winter and in the summer was bumpy and dusty with little grass coverage. There's no doubt that when players like the pitch then the club is not only able to retain those players but it is also easier to encourage more use. That was the game plan, so I knew we had to invest in the pitch." With no knowledge of groundsmanship, Loucas started in February 2013: "It was complete mud and I must admit I didn't have a clue! One example of this being the fact that I used to manually roll the goalmouths and centre circle because, I was told, 'that's what we've always done'. It didn't take me long to get on the Internet and, of course, I soon realised that rolling was making matters worse. I found out about compaction and aeration, then starting forking the surface – yes, I would hand-fork the complete pitch! Even if the top layer was mud, the fork would only go in so far, the compaction was so bad it was like rock. "After being advised about vertidraining and the need to drill-in the grass seed (rather than scatter it by hand), we invested in using a contractor to renovate the pitch, and we introduced regular divoting and increased the frequency of mowing. All this helped and the next year's renovation was repeated while I undertook an IOG winter foundation course. But the real step change came in 2014 when Bishops Stortford's Gareth Davis undertook the renovation by vertidraining then topdressing with 10 tonnes of 70/30 sand/soil mix. This was followed by mowing and fertilising when the seed was at tiller stage and, again, more frequent mowing (mainly thanks to Col Mason, who uses a John Deere ride-on rotary mower) plus the in-season use of an additional 10 tonnes of topdressing. We also bought a chain harrow." Loucas has an annual budget of around £4,000; £1,000 of which is usually spent on topdressing; the remainder is mostly for the cost of contractors to vertidrain, drill the seed, and apply fertilisers and weed killers. Games go on "Nowadays, we're much more proactive with the pitch and despite still having drainage problems (we're forever pumping the water out of the under-pitch drain), we now have a pitch that withstands the weather quite well," he says. "During very wet weather this is often the only pitch in the area where games go ahead. For example, in July 2014, after a 16- hour period of heavy rain, there were no puddles and the club was able to host two hours of junior football (four mini pitches) followed by a fi rst team match. Indeed, just two games were lost during the 2014/15 season compared to eight the previous year and six in season 2012/13. "Nowadays we regularly stage youth games on the pitch on Saturday mornings before the fi rst team games – and the youth squad and their parents often stay behind to watch the fi rst team games, which has helped to improve attendances. Importantly, though, we have a club in which the whole community takes an interest and includes a disability team that has been formed on the back of our association with Mudlarks." l The award-winning Hertford Town FC volunteers - back row, from left: Andy Few (Mudlarks leader), Col Mason, Mudlarker David Joyce, Tom Xenophontos (Loucas' son), Mudlarker Jeff Saggs and Mark Hall. Front row, from left: Mudlarkers Adam Lynch, Vince and Jack Sapwell with Loucas Xenophontos NEW RANGE OF CHIPPERS & SHREDDERS UP TO Ø230mm IN STOCK e-mail: Thame, Oxfordshire 01844 278843 Hinckley, Leicestershire 01455 638960 Shefford, Berkshire 01488 648552 Midhurst, West Sussex 01730 819981 Byfield, Northamptonshire 01327 264844

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