Back to basics

Dave Saltmanin Editorial

It was with great sadness to hear that Stan Gibson had passed away, there have been many tributes to this man who gave his life and soul to the club he loved. He was highly regarded by the players and the chairmen that he worked with over the years, and will be sorely missed.

Stan Gibson-Groundsman Supreme

I was on my way into work on the morning of Thursday 27th December when I received a call on my mobile. I was given the sad news that Stan Gibson the ex-Head Groundsman of Manchester City had died.

He had died on Christmas eve.

I had known of Stan for about thirty years. I was a young Groundsman at Leicester City and was talking about Groundsmen with the man in charge of me. He told me of Stan, how he battled with the weather in cold grey, rainy Manchester and how good his pitch was even then.

He told me to watch "Match of the Day " and to compare the pitches and see if I could work out what he had done and how he had done it.

This was the winter of 1970, my first year at work.

Many years later I moved to Manchester United and after a settling down period I rang Stan at Maine road and asked if he would come and see me. He did, and that began a friendship that was to last for the rest of his life.

He was a really nice, honest and down to earth Groundsman. He was way ahead of his time. It is hard to explain what I mean by that but he had a mental strength, an attitude that he would never allow anything or anyone to beat him or his pitch.

He used to tease me that they had a saying in Manchester " mother get your washing out-United are at home ". It was his way of saying that it only rained when City played at home. Years later he said to me " It don't matter now if Stockport are at home it is always p…… down these days". I took that as a compliment.

He always managed to enjoy himself. I remember bumping into him on the pitch at Maine Road just prior to a Rolling Stones concert. I asked him how he was coping and he replied " they organised it so I am going to enjoy it ".

That from a 65 year old man who knew just how much damage these events could do to his pitch. I made sure that I met him the next evening, he was still smiling and still enjoying himself. He told me later that they were two of the best concerts he had ever seen.

Years later and I was with Peter Marron from the other Old Trafford at a concert on Maine road. We all went up to the boardroom for a drink. Stan was so full of life and really enjoyed the three of us together, 'the unholy trio' he would say.

He retired a few years back but we still kept in touch. He enjoyed his cricket and we had a pint or two watching the test matches together at Old Trafford.

Last May I was asked if I would attend a tribute dinner for Stan given by the Swinton supporters club! Can you believe that? A supporters club felt that strongly about this man they had a tribute night for him!!

I was delighted to attend and spend some time in the company of Stan and his family.

Last week I went to the funeral of Stan Gibson.

It was attended by soccer legends of Manchester City. Players from the past and present, chairmen both past and present and the many people who had worked with and loved Stan. It was a fitting tribute to a great man.

How would he have gone on today?

Well I feel the air would be a darker "blue" at Maine road if he were to see some of today's warm ups. But like players from any era of whom the question is asked ' would they be as good today'?

In Stan's case that is easy to answer. He always stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Thank you Stan

Bless you

Keith Kent


Back to basics

By the time a new product hits the market place there have been trials and development taking place for maybe many years.

In my capacity as a Head Groundsman I was forever being asked to trial new products and invariably endorse them as well. One field of science though that I was particularly keen to trial was the movement away from man made chemicals, and back towards mother nature ( organic fertilisers, soil microbes and other similar products).

It seemed to me that by returning to organic practices helped reduce the need for fungicides, fertiliser applications and certain machine operations.One of our members has been conducting trials on another type of organic product.

Bio sugars boast a number of benefits, the improvement in nutrient uptake helps to produce deeper rooting grass, leading to increased resilience to wear and quicker recovery rates. The ability for the plant to grow equally well in shadier conditions is provided by the plants reduced requirements to photosynthesise.

Below are Clive's findings and thoughts as to their use.

Bio-sugarsby Clive Liddiard

For the last 7 years I have been conducting a trial of the so-called bio-sugars.

When I started out using these products I was informed of these outstanding results the scientists had got from their use.

Me being a stubborn person decided that if these products were that good then it was worth me doing some of my own trials.

Over the years I have used numerous products all with varying results.

Now I have gained some stark results from their use, as you can see from picture one this tennis court has suffered extensive damage to its base lines to say the least, this level of damage though is not the exception but the norm, this view however changed when the courts started to hold up against play much better, in picture 2 you can see one of the courts after a seasons play.

The difference between the courts, one has been treated with bio-sugars; all the maintenance has been the same, feeding has been identical except, for the application of the bio-sugars.( Fact: the court in picture two has had more play.)

Other benefits I have found are the improvement in root depth, when I started out the current trial I had around 6" max rooting, now on the treated courts I can take a soil profile and have extensive root growth out of the bottom of the profile. I have also discovered that my aeration programme has been reduced along with the rolling programme without detriment to the playing surface.

Other benefits that came to light are the decrease in top growth from young grasses and an increase in root growth. Sward density increased as a consequence weed control was reduced a consequence I can live happily with.

Picture 3 shows a court in October this year 3 weeks after renovation. (This area is treated with bio-sugars.)

How they work fully I do not know, I am a Head Groundsman not a scientist, but in for a penny in for the pound as they say.

Bio-sugars activate microbes in the soil that have been dormant. The bio-sugars simply provide these microbes with a readily available food source, the plant roots exude carbohydrates that in turn provide an energy source for the mycorrhizal fungi and rhizosphere bacteria. The mycorrhizal fungi provide the plant with a supply of nitrate and phosphate.

Aquick fix it is not but a beneficial aid it is.

With bent grasses an improvement to wear of 20% was noticed, fescues 15%, and the rye cultivars showed a 30% improvement.

Don't get me wrong these are not the cure for all ills and do require strict application and a few more man-hours initially.

They will not solve your thatch or aeration problems.

They are an aid just like fertiliser or selective weed killer was when it first came onto the market place, they all require good maintenance procedures to get the desired results.

Overall the results I have had are very promising, more independent research needs to done but as we stand at the moment with more demands being placed on Groundsmen to give better pitches perhaps this is another aid to help us forward.

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