Never ending at Northampton
If there was ever a stadium used to its maximum potential then Sixfields stadium has to be it. Since the
All of which means that the poor old pitch gets hammered from July right through to the following June. Not much time to get it up and rejuvenated for the start of next seasons battering.
The club has enjoyed both success and failure in recent years, twice promoted, twice reaching play-off finals at Wembley and finally demotion back to the second division, where they currently reside. With the appointment of a new manager, there is renewed enthusiasm at the ground, but with it comes the necessity for additional training on the pitch. 'As with any manager, I try and help wherever I can, and with Kevin Broadhurst (Manager) I have allowed training where possible to happen, I have an understanding with the club that they can, weather permitting, have a session on the pitch prior to home games. This usually entails about forty-five minutes of pattern play and crosses. The corners and the goalmouths usually come in for some stick, so I intensively repair these areas with a small gardening fork, root zone and seed. I use the fork to ease up any heel marks and divots, and place a little mixed root zone and seed to regain levels'.
The first places of wear are usually the goalmouths and the touchlines. Each year Paul rotovates these areas and tops them up with sand. The sand is then ameliorated with the root zone to re address the sand particle content of the root zone. He then grades these areas to bring them back to level before the seed is sown. The trouble is that the renovation of the pitch doesn't usually start until the beginning of June after the last local cup finals have been played, so the closed season generally doesn't exceed seven weeks. Not much time to renovate, germinate and establish the grass sward for another ten months of use.
As the cooler nights approach, Paul is busy importing his only means of pitch protection. The frost sheets have been stored outside in the compound but are now brought in and laid around the perimeter of the pitch in anticipation of frosty forecasts.
The sheets are made of a permeable geo-textile material that is permeable to light and water. When they are laid out on the pitch they sit on the grass creating a microclimate under them. The air that is trapped under the sheets keeps a slightly warmer temperature than outside and insulates the ground, stopping it freezing. These covers will protect the pitch from freezing down to about -4 degrees Celsius and have been invaluable in saving countless games at Sixfields, but it requires keeping a close watch on the forecast to make sure that they are pulled out across the pitch in time. At the ground there is enough frost sheets to not only cover the entire pitch, but also to double up the sheets in the eighteen-yard boxes for added protection.
There are other considerations for Paul as daily temperatures start to fall, the automatic pop up irrigation scheme around the pitch has now been de commissioned for the winter. This means that the pipe works from the tanks out to the pitch and the pump have been drained of water so that no damage can be caused by water freezing internally. The system will now remain in non-use until the spring when North Staffs Irrigation come back to refill the system and service the sprinkler heads.
It is no doubt going to continue being very busy for Paul, and as we move into November, he notes that he has already had more usage on the pitch than some premier grounds will have this entire season.