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Groundsman’s Euro 2020 tribute

Groundsman’s Euro 2020 tribute: The groundsman at an East Yorkshire school thought he would add to the euphoria surrounding England’s semi-final victory in the Euro 2020 tournament.

Read the full article from Hull Daily Mail here

Groundsman's Euro 2020 tribute

Groundsman’s Euro 2020 tribute

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Groundsman’s sense of normality

Groundsman’s sense of normality: Amid all the uncertainty brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, it is reassuring to know that some routines have hardly changed.

“The grass doesn’t stop for coronavirus,” Scott Humphries, groundsman at Oxford United’s training ground says.

Groundsman's sense of normality

Groundsman’s sense of normality

This is the start of the third week without players working on the pitches at the club’s headquarters near Horspath.

But while the squad are cooped up, Humphries cannot work from home.

Instead, he is isolated in his tractor, trundling up and down the vast expanse of green, keeping it in shape for when the season can restart.

He said: “It’s just about giving the pitches some tender loving care.

“Grass is like a human, it requires food, drink and oxygen.

“People don’t see it like that, but to me it’s my second baby.”

Other than not marking out the pitches, his job has barely changed in the last fortnight.

The lack of wear and tear, coupled with the sudden burst of sunshine, has helped restore the pitches to pristine condition.

But there is a snag to this unscheduled break, which is centred around just how long life will be on hold.

Groundstaff count on the long summer break to give them enough time to undertake essential major pitch renovation works.

But with the current campaign set to be extended, it is likely the gap between seasons will be shorter.

Humphries said: “We all need a holiday now and again because otherwise we burn out – and pitches are no different.

“You would normally rip the surface off and then it’s about six weeks to grow.

“The training pitch is vital, especially with the way our boys want to play.

“The community use the facilities as well and you want them to have a good surface when they’re allowed to come out.

“It’s so frustrating because we can’t plan anything – and it needs to be ready for Championship players next season.”

A lifelong United fan, Humphries has lived the dream since arriving in August 2017.

And although he is working separately to the rest of the club at the moment, the connection is still there.

“Derek Fazackerley (first team coach) rang me up the other night, just to see how things were,” he said.

“That’s brilliant and it just makes you feel part of it.

“Faz is a football legend and he’s taken ten minutes out to give me a ring.

“It’s the club I love and you are always going to go the extra mile in that situation.

“It’s brilliant to see it on the Saturday. At 5pm you can say ‘I’ve played a little part in that’.”

In that context, the current situation – surrounded by pitches, but without any football – is torture.

“I can’t wait for football to be back,” he said.

“I just keep thinking about that first game and how much we’ll all be looking forward to it.

“We took a Tuesday night in Rochdale for granted, but everyone will be buzzing to go now.”

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Groundsman’s near miss

Groundsman’s near miss: A groundsman was almost struck as he replaced divets halfway through a race during one of Musselburgh Racecourse’s biggest days of the year.

The ‘near-miss’ incident occurred during the Edinburgh Cup in September when groundstaff had been warned to remember the main race of the day would see the runners go round the course twice over the two-mile event.

Groundsman's near miss

However, it appeared one of the workers forgot and was still replacing divets on the ground when the horses came round the bend towards him.

It was only when he heard jockeys shouting at him to get out of the way that he managed to duck under the barriers to safety.

Bill Farnsworth, racecourse general manager, said a stewards inquiry was launched after the incident and the British Horseracing Authority investigated ruling that all protocol had been followed by the racecourse itself.

The incident came to light at a meeting of Musselburgh Racing Associated Committee this week.

Mr Farnsworth said: “The Edinburgh Cup is a two-mile race and our head groundsman warned all the groundstaff to remember they go round twice.

“One of the groundsmen went out and obviously forgot it was a two-mile race.

“He was busy knocking in the divets as horses came around the bend and jockeys had to shout at him.

“He ducked off the track, it was a ‘near miss’.”

He added that a similar incident at Ascot in November had seen that course fined nearly £4,000 by the British Horseracing Authority for not following the proper protocol before the race.

Mr Farnsworth said: “The sport needs to decide if it is safe for people to get on track during racing, it is weighing up the benefit of repairing the track with the risk. There is always a risk of human error.”

A spokesman for the British Horseracing Authority confirmed it had carried out an investigation into the incident during the Edinburgh Cup, adding: “No further action was required.”

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Groundsman’s ECB commendation

Groundsman’s ECB commendation: Radlett Cricket Club head groundsman Nick Searle has received a commendation in this year’s annual ECB Groundsman of the Year Awards.

The Award, in the out-ground venues category, is awarded to groundsmen around the country who have hosted matches across any of the three formats and are judged based on the pitch performance and ratings provided by the ECB’s Cricket Liaison Officers who are present at the matches, having taken feedback from both umpires and both competing captains.

Groundsman's ECB commendation

A busy year for Radlett Cricket Club in 2019 saw the club’s Brunton Memorial Ground host Middlesex matches across all three competition formats, holding first-class County Championship and Vitality Blast matches there for the first time ever and hosting its seventh List-A clash for Middlesex.

2020 will see Radlett again being utilised by Middlesex as one of its preferred out-ground venues, with the club being used as the home base for all four of Middlesex’s fifty-over Royal London Cup matches next season.

Speaking of receiving the ECB commendation, Searle, commented: “A huge amount of work goes in to making the quality of the pitches here at Radlett as good as possible, and it’s always nice to have that effort recognised by the officials at the game and by the ECB.

“We are extremely proud to host Middlesex games in Radlett, and the challenges that come with hosting matches for a professional side are something that the ground-staff here rise to and enjoy.

“I’d like to thank my number two, Jez Menzies, and the rest of the team for their efforts and we very much look forward to hosting Middlesex again this summer in the Royal London Cup.”

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‘Bored’ Groundsman’s Grand Design

‘Bored’ Groundsman’s Grand Design: A “bored” lower league football groundsman went to great lengths to create the perfect pitch – covered in geometric shapes.

Fed-up with ‘drawing’ the same outline on the Brechin City turf, Neil Wood, 54, decided to design something more creative with his lawnmower.

'Bored' Groundsman's Grand Design

The patient Glebe Park groundsman spent six hours mowing the intricate pattern into the grass.

But despite the huge compliment, Neil, from the Angus town, remains humble about his design at the 4083 capacity stadium – home to the League Two side.

He said: “I usually cut the pitch in squares but we got bored of doing that so I wanted to do something different.

“The players were all taken back by it but they are happy with it. It’s nice to hear that the club think the design is the best in the world.

“It could be possible but I’ll just let them decide that.”

Neil carefully etched out the swirls by starting from the outside and works his way into the middle of the pitch.

He said: “I start from the outside and work my way in but I don’t change the height level of the lawnmower.

“I use the lines on the pitch as a rough guide which is probably why I manage to get it more precise.

“It’s just about changing your direction rather than the height level. Maintaining the pitch is ok in the summer but it’s hard in the winter.”

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Groundsman’s Burger Discovery

Groundsman’s Burger Discovery: When a burger descended from space to land on the training ground at Colchester United on Thursday, groundsmen at the club were stumped as to its origin.

Was it a cryptic message from another solar system, or possibly a bizarre ploy from an opposing team to upset United’s preparations?

Groundsman's Burger Discovery

All was revealed when Tom Stanniland, better known by his YouTube name Kill’em, called the League Two club to explain.

“I sent a burger into space using a weather balloon,” said Stanniland, who intended to eat it once it had safely returned to terra firma – wherever that may be.

“It had gone about 24 miles up and the weather balloon popped. It’s come back down, travelled over 100 miles and landed right here.”

A groundsman at Colchester found the burger, accompanied by a camera and parachute, at the club’s training ground, Florence Park.

Stanniland was able to determine its location thanks to a tracker he had installed in the box carrying the burger into the earth’s atmosphere.

After contacting the club to confirm its whereabouts, Stanniland travelled down from his home in Sheffield to retrieve the cosmic burger.

However, the effects of the journey into space had taken its toll on the meal.

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Lords Groundsman’s ‘Dream Job’

Lords Groundsman’s ‘Dream Job’: Karl McDermott, the new MCC head groundsman, may be preparing the Lord’s pitches for the World Cup final and the Ashes this summer, but when it comes to romance, Ireland’s first Test there will take some beating.

He is from Dublin, and his journey to the home of cricket, replacing the legendary Mick Hunt, has been remarkable by any standards.

Lords Groundsman's 'Dream Job'

His maths teacher at Mount Temple School needed somebody to help out in the summer holidays at Castle Avenue, home of Clondarf Cricket Club.

“I didn’t play cricket and knew nothing about it at the time – I played tennis instead,” says McDermott, 43. “I had never even been in the club’s ground which was half a mile from my house. The job was for a couple of hours a week, for five Irish pounds.”

He spent 17 years working there before joining the ground staff at Worcestershire in 2007. He then became deputy head groundsman at Hampshire in 2009, before taking their top job three years ago. Now his first summer at Lord’s will be epic to say the least.

He actually says he is not looking beyond Middlesex’s County Championship opener against Lancashire on April 11, but admits Ireland’s four-day Test from July 24–27 will be special.

“This is the dream job and I am looking forward to the summer hugely,” he says. “The World Cup and Ashes will be brilliant, but how many times will Ireland play a Test here again? It will be a brilliant experience and I have lots of friends coming over, including my maths teacher, who will be my guest on the first day.

“I have received lots of texts joking that the master plan is in place, but I just hope we get past day two the way we are playing. I have heard from so many people I haven’t heard from for years and years.

“After it was announced I got the job I went back to the club and there were about 80-90 people there to greet me. When the day comes up I will be very proud. I know Kevin O’Brien and Will Porterfield and a few of the older players.”

He insists Ireland will receive no favours from him however. “I will take a good pitch over an Ireland win,” although he adds: “Hopefully it will be a high-scoring Ireland win.”

Hunt, in the role for 49 years, was known for his fierce independence when it came to Lord’s pitches for Middlesex and England, and McDermott will maintain this tradition. But he did hint that there may be a bit more in it for spinners in the future.

“From a Lord’s point of view, we want a bit of pace, a bit of bounce and then some spin at the end. Speaking to a few ex-players they say the ball doesn’t seem to spin here too much. They are excited that might happen. I want that to naturally evolve though. This year will be just finding out how the pitches evolve over four or five days.

“When I was at Hampshire we never had any requests for the three Test matches we staged. I was always asked to produce the best cricket pitch and I expect the same here. Middlesex coach Stuart Law has told me he just wants to play on good cricket pitches – and win in the last hour on day four.”

McDermott says he learned much from the visit of the counties to Ireland to play in Trophy matches at the start of each summer, and names the 1999 World Cup match between West Indies and Bangladesh as the “favourite moment of [his] career to date”. He also spent winters working in Australia and South Africa as part of his education as a groundsman.

There is no bigger groundsman’s job than Lord’s, but McDermott says: “I am excited, not daunted. I am not one that loses sleep over cricket, I am quite comfortable where I am.”

Lord’s stages four World Cup matches (Pakistan v Australia on June 23, England v Australia on June 25, New Zealand v Australia on June 29 and then the final on July 14). The second Ashes Test is there from August 14–18. But there is also a long list of other matches, involving – among others – MCC, Middlesex, the Oxbridge sides, Eton and Harrow, and the Village Cup final organised by The Cricketer.

“In terms of days’ cricket it’s not that dissimilar to Hampshire really but the big games are bigger here and the smaller games are smaller. It’s about managing that package, and at the moment that package is loaded in the middle. It will present some challenges but every county groundsman will moan about schedules and too much cricket. A couple of games squeezed in are not ideal but everything else is manageable.”

Asked how he could deal with potential criticism, he said: “It will be nothing I haven’t heard before. Comments come with the game. Everyone is an expert.”

McDermott lives in the ground, which he says is a “handy commute”. He has five full-time assistants and three summer helpers, and MCC Young Cricketers work with him on major days.

Lord’s is famous for its slope of course – a decline of 2.5 metres from north to south. “Mick told me to beware of it as the water literally runs down it. It is going to need managing for sure.

“He also gave me one great bit of advice. Make sure you get away now and again. Because the place does take you over with the volume of cricket.”

And has he done that yet? No. not with Ireland, the World Cup and Australia visiting.

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Real Madrid Groundsman’s Office

Real Madrid Groundsman’s Office: Paul Burgess, the man responsible maintaining Real Madrid’s pitch, recently took to social media posting an image of his office with the message: “Preparing our summer planning today for the stadium and training facility, busy 2019 ahead.”

Formerly in charge of the pitches at Arsenal, his modern techniques were taken on by all of the Premier League teams. Then in 2009, Real Madrid brought him to the Spanish capital to take charge of the Santiago Bernabeu turf.

Real Madrid Groundsman's Office

In the image, posted by Burgess, you can see the awards received during his time in England, in an office which contains some of the best technology to help pamper the pitch for Madrid.

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Groundsman’s Amputation Horror

Groundsman’s Amputation Horror: A groundsman from Derbyshire has been forced to leave full-time work and has undergone multiple operations after a horrific workplace accident.

The 47-year-old tripped on a tree stump while mowing a grass bank, struck his head and was knocked unconscious.

Groundsman's Amputation Horror

The lawnmower he was using carried on and ran over his foot, the blades slicing through his left boot and into his big toe.

Phil, who did not wish to have his second name published, had part of the toe amputated, developed an infection and was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome, causing him headaches and memory loss.

The condition also carries a risk of developing epilepsy, according to Derby law firm Thompsons Solicitors who represented him.

As a result of his injuries, Phil was awarded £80,000 in compensation from former employer High Peak Borough Council.

Following the accident, which took place in Buxton, Phil spent nine days in hospital and three months off work. He then returned to work on lighter duties, such as painting and decorating.

Soon after his return, Phil’s contract ended and he has had to take lower-paid employment as his injury limits his ability to work and drive.

He said: “My injury has changed everything.

“Now that I can’t drive manual vehicles, my job prospects are limited. I’m taking part-time work here and there but it’s nowhere near as stable as before my accident.

“It’s not just affected my work but my personal life, too. I’ve lost confidence and even getting around the house is a lot more difficult.

“I’m only 47 but I feel like this injury has slowed me down so much.”

Thompsons Solicitors took up his case and pursued a compensation claim against employer High Peak Borough Council.

Angela Staples, of Thompsons Solicitors, said: “Phil was injured because of his employer’s failure to risk assess the job.

“The grass verge was unsafe as there was a tree stump hidden in the ground. With some basic pre-planning, Phil wouldn’t have had to put himself at serious risk of injury.

“The accident has caused significant physical and psychological harm to Phil and left him unable to do jobs he could do before.”

High Peak Borough Council said that there was a full investigation into the incident.

A spokesperson said: “We regret that Phil sustained an injury to his foot while at work as a seasonal grounds maintenance operative.

“Our welfare procedures in relation to support for Phil were followed in full. This incident was fully investigated internally.

“The Health and Safety Executive also carried out a separate investigation and no enforcement action was taken.”

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