Estates manager Clive Pring says the pitch is ‘looking great’ ahead of the first game of the new era, Saturday’s clash with Carlisle United.
Getting the pitch to its current state has taken eight weeks of hard work, starting straight after the last game of the season.
Clive outlined the process, saying: “We ripped off the surface that was there last year – it wasn’t a particularly great surface that we finished up with. Then we spent a lot of time breaking down and mixing the soil up.”
However, this work then presented more challenges for Clive and his team, because they destroyed the pitch’s drainage system. Clive said the drainage lines were then reinserted that same week, before the pitch was over-seeded. That was about two months ago, and Clive says the pitch is ‘looking great’ now.
There was still more work to be done though – another challenge was faced just three days before kick-off, with the construction of goalposts. The posts were a little late arriving, and as Clive says “it’s not really the thing you want to do three days before the game!”
The final step to prepare the pitch was just to keep cutting it every day and watering it when it’s not raining, because it was ‘growing like mad’ and ‘it’s just a case really of keeping it nice and healthy so when they start using it we get recovery really quickly’.
Clive and his team also had to deal with the summer heatwave, which caused isolated problems. Clive explained: “We have fully automated irrigation from pop-ups in the ground, but in a heatwave like this you realise some of the pop-ups aren’t doing what they’re supposed to and we end up doing a lot of fixing of irrigation and hand-watering.”
But the problems didn’t end there – there were logistical issues surrounding the construction of the new stand too. One memorable day involved 30-ton lorries needing to get across the pitch. Clive, said: “The only way of getting them into place was going across the pitch. So we hired in a roadway that’s supposed to take 100 tons in weight which got me a bit on edge for the day!” Despite the heatwave, water was also a problem at times, with water leaks meaning the water had to be isolated while repairs were done, but otherwise Clive said they ‘worked well’ with the construction team.
Speaking of issues with water, we also asked Clive about the rain last season: “The rain last year was a bit of a joke in the end – every Saturday it seemed to be raining,” he said. “But the pitch did extremely well, the drainage did exactly what it was supposed to do, but the type of grass wasn’t hardy enough to fulfil a full season of football.
"Last season the renovation work at the beginning wasn’t undertaken as we would’ve liked because they started demolition on the stands very quickly after the last game of the season and we lost access, so we couldn’t really do efficiently what we wanted to do – so it wasn’t a half-hearted effort but it wasn’t really the sort of effort we like to put in, and that was detrimental to the surface.
"This year we’ve done the right type of renovation so we’re looking for it to be looking and playing a lot better than it was last year. Fingers crossed we’re going to be fine!”