The Groundsman

August 2012

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the Groundsman August 2012 Niall Hazelhurst says winning last year's IOG Industry Award for Young Groundsman of the Year had an immediate impact on his life: "Even on the night of the Awards while I was being congratulated by my industry peers, I was able to network with some of the best groundsmen in the country – and, indeed, as a result of meeting Paul Burgess of Real Madrid I was able to visit Paul in Spain – and since then it has certainly been a case of people recognising who I am, thanks to the publicity that surrounded my win. "Another major benefit of winning the Award was being invited to join in with the work of the IOG Young Directors; working with the 'Young Board' has been a tremendous boon and the discussions I've had during the various trips we've made, in the UK and abroad, have been a real eye-opener in terms of different approaches to groundscare. Along with the IOG Young Directors I recently travelled to America, courtesy of Ransomes Jacobsen, and if I hadn't been associated with the Young Directors I would never have dreamed of going to the US!" Niall, Assistant Groundsman at Bolton Wanderers' Reebok Stadium, was nominated for the Award by Grounds Manager Richard Norton who, on his Award entry nomination form, said: "Niall's skills and practical knowledge have allowed me to use him for cover at all our other sites [the Eddie Davies Football Academy, Chorley, and at the training ground at Lostock] and I am able to leave him alone to work, safe in the knowledge that he will consistently produce the quality of work required at a professional level. "Niall is a very reliable young man and his commitment to the grounds team is unquestionable." With over 20 years' experience at the club, Richard has ensured that any one of his groundscare team (ten full-time and eight part-time) can easily and quickly switch between sites; the same machines and equipment is used at every location and, adds Niall, "even the irrigation control systems are the same, which makes things so straightforward when something needs to be done". FEATURE 21 Niall Hazelhurst collects his IOG Award for Young Groundsman of the Year from category sponsors, Phil Dewhurst (right) of Rigby Taylor and Stephen Alderton from Top Green Niall joined the Reebok team aged 16, initially on a work-placement scheme after writing to various football clubs asking for voluntary work. "Richard responded offering me match day experience at the Reebok, which I grabbed," Niall continues. "I was then offered an apprenticeship at Bolton, and simultaneously enlisted at Myerscough College for a Level 2 diploma in Amenity Horticulture (Sports Turf). I've since completed my Level 3." Richard adds: "Niall was involved in the initial build and hand over of our Eddie Davies Football Academy. His involvement ranged from drainage and irrigation works to building paths and steps. This was an extraordinary introduction to groundsmanship for a 16-year-old, working alongside sports contractors, preparing the site for its opening and finally bringing the site into play. His commitment to the project was outstanding, and it's an experience that will live with Niall for a very long time." Niall has a measured approach towards his future aspirations in the industry: "Of course, at some stage I'd like to be a Head Groundsman, but before that perhaps a move into a site management role where I could gain experience of running a site and managing a team of people." In the meantime, he continues to play an important role in Bolton's groundscare team and has his sights set on another target, thanks to the IOG Young Directors: "Earlier this year I was off work for about six months (with a serious injury sustained while playing football) and during this period I actually realised just how much I missed the job. It's that feeling, that sense of passion, that I now want to impart to other youngsters. "My role with the Young IOG Directors has really given me a rush of adrenalin, a spur to encourage others to become involved in this industry. Clearly, I wasn't cut out for an academic school life, and there must be many others like me who prefer the outdoors. "One aim of the IOG Young Directors is to visit schools and colleges to raise the profile of groundsmanship and to explain that it is a good – a very good – industry to be in. I can't wait to start that process!" The 2011 IOG Industry Award for Young Groundsman of the Year was sponsored by Rigby Taylor and Top Green. Both companies are again sponsoring the Award category this year.

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