The Groundsman

April 2016

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Visit for more information and digital editions IOG BEST PRACTICE 19 the Groundsman April 2016 plan – I made it clear that I was there to manage the expectations of everyone, including those of the players and of the club, and my plan was designed to create training facilities of a standard that matched the attitude and ambitions of the club and its players." The training pitches were in need of improvement, continues John. "We dug test holes on every pitch on the clay-based site and it was immediately apparent that the surfaces 'hadn't been touched' during their 14 years' existence. The pitches had no drainage nor structure and were historically poor during the winter months. The argument for change was based on the fact that well-constructed playing surfaces would mean the pitches would have more chance of being used on a daily basis, to accommodate the heavy use by teams of all age groups, from the under 9s through to the first team. At that stage the first team was at the top of the Championship and while promotion to the Premier League looked likely it was not certain, so it was a major step for the club to sanction such a substantial spend. But the message of 'proactive over reactive' now rings in the ears of everyone at the club when it comes to the grounds department." John outlines how his boardroom presentation was deliberately designed so that the directors could clearly understand his messaging. "I graded the action points by using colour coding (using green to red, as they do on electrical goods) with bullet points to highlight the challenges and the required changes needed to meet those demands. "As a result, we invested in more grounds staff and more machinery – including new mowers from Toro (two 3100s), Iseki (three SXG rotaries), Dennis (seven G860s) and Honda (12 rotaries), and set about re-constructing two pitches with undersoil heating, one a Fibresand and the other a Desso Grassmaster to match the surface at the King Power Stadium where, also as part of the five-year plan, growing lights were installed in December 2014. "That said, it is essential that every pound is spent wisely – it's sometimes easy to get carried away with the belief that groundsmen at Premier League clubs have a bottomless pit of money – and that ethos really helped me tailor my plan. For example, I had to fully justify the growing lights, which were initially hired for a year, after which I began negotiations with the supplier, TLS, for the purchase of the lights. We have four sets of the lightweight TLS 400s lights, which are manually pushed/pulled into position because I prefer not to put a tractor onto the pitch. New mindset "Equally important as new and improved pitches and a wider portfolio of maintenance machinery was, says John, the need to get the grounds team on board with his way of thinking – even little things like getting straight onto the pitches after players' training sessions so that the players and coaches could see that the grounds team was 'keen'. The stadium pitch is under constant scrutiny by TV cameras John secured a £1.2 million investment for the training ground, to achieve playing surfaces that matched the attitude and ambitions of the club and its players t

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