Secret Of Madrid And PSG’s Success: Last night the footballing world stopped to watch the second leg of the Champions League last 16 tie, pitting Real Madrid against Paris Saint Germain.
Real Madrid need no introduction having won the Champions League a record 13 times, including winning it the previous two seasons, as well as having a team full of world class stars headed by Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the best player in the world.
PSG meanwhile strive to reach the levels of Madrid and plan to do so with large transfer fee’s. Backed by Qatari investment they have blown away the record transfer fee by prizing Neymar away from Barcelona in the summer for £200 million pounds.
Joining him was Kylian Mbappe for £165 million with the permanent deal to go through in the summer. Therefore, the thought of two global giants of the game going head to head enticed most fans of the beautiful game to watch the game at the Parc De Princes.
However, beneath the big transfer fee’s and glamour players a huge part of both side’s recent successes is down to two men who made unlikely moves to both clubs.
Jonathan Calderwood has been PSG’s groundsman since 2013, joining from Premier League club Aston Villa, while Paul Burgess has been in charge of the Bernabeu’s pitch since 2009; having previously been at Arsenal.
Both men have won the Groundsman of the year award while in England but have different stories on their way to the two European giants.
Calderwood left his home country of Northern Ireland at the young age of 17 to study Turf Science & Sports Ground Management’ at Myerscough College for 3-years. After that he became the deputy head groundsman at the old Wembley. Eventually, he became the head groundsman at the home of English football overseeing it’s final four years; before he was forced to move on as the FA announced plans for the new Wembley which was opened seven years later.
This led to Calderwood moving to the Midlands, spending a year at Wolverhampton Wanderers before joining Aston Villa in 2002. As Grounds Manager at the club, he was responsible for not only the Villa Park pitch, but also the club’s training ground Bodymoor Heath.
During his 11-year spell at Villa Park, Calderwood was named Groundsman of the Year twice as well as gaining a number of other awards for his work on the turf. One man who was impressed with his work was Gerard Houillier, who managed Villa during the 2010-11 season before leaving due to health issues.
Despite the Frenchman only being there a year Calderwood had clearly made his mark on him, because when PSG started to look for a new groundsman Houiller recommended the Villa man.
When then PSG manager Carlo Ancelotti backed this up the French club set out to get their man, in their aim to have the best pitch as well as the best players. Calderwood is in charge of the Parc De Princess pitch, as well as the club’s training and academy pitches.
He is also tasked with flying out to America at the end of every season as well to make sure that the pitch the club play’s on in the following pre-season is up to scratch.
Calderwood has certainly made an impact in Paris, but it was Burgess who was the first Premier League groundsman to earn a move aboard.
The year was 2009 and Real Madrid was in a bleak period of it’s history. They had won the La Liga title. They had just lost the La Liga title to Pep Guardiola’s all conquering Barcelona and had not won the Champions League since 2002.
However, the start of the 2009-10 brought optimism around the club. Florentino Perez had taken over as president again, splashing big on Ronaldo and Kaka in a quest to regain the title.
While this did fail, there was a small bit of success at Madrid that season due to Burgess. The Bernabeu pitch had been criticised season’s prior and was blamed for injuries to players.
When Inter Milan and Bayern Munich stepped out of the pitch for that seasons Champions League final however, it was spectacular with criticism a thing of the distant past.
This was the main reason why the Spanish giants had recruited Burgess. The Englishmen began his groundsman career by doing work experience at his local club Blackpool, before joining Arsenal in 1996 at the age of 18.
He then became head groundsman at the Gunners previous ground Highbury four years later. While at Arsenal he won the Groundsman of the Year award three times, leading to Madrid swooping in for him.
Like Calderwood at PSG, Burgess is highly rated at Madrid and is also required to scout out the pitches where the club is due to play it’s pre-season games. In 2014, with the club set to travel to Morocco to take part in the 2014 FIFA Club World Cup, they sent Burgess to inspect the pitch.
Burgess was not impressed with the pitch at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium where Madrid played four matches. Due to this the club chose to arrive two days before their first game, so they could fit in an extra training session at their own Valdebebas training ground.
Burgess’s advice worked as Madrid went on to win the tournament. Madrid will be aiming to compete in the tournament again this December but must win the Champions League for a third time in a row to qualify.
Last night’s 2-1 win over PSG saw them progress to the quarter finals. However, it has been a season of disappointment with the club thirteen points behind Barcelona in La Liga. As for PSG, they look set for fifth Ligue 1 title in six seasons (they are fourteen points clear at the top), but the Champions League is the prize they want most and will be disappointed with not progressing very far in the competition.
Regardless of the team’s form though, their pitches will always be winners thanks to the work of Calderwood and Burgess.
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