0 A winning partnership at Man City

Lee Metcalfe2Arriving at Manchester City Football Club in early August, to touch base with the grounds team responsible for producing top of the Premiership pitches, offers an insight into the unique challenges they face.

The first port of call is Carrington training ground to see how a new regenerating perennial ryegrass mixture, by Barenbrug, is faring.

But, the Carrington Head Groundsman, Lee Metcalfe, is presented with a challenge - a film crew is shooting on a pitch earmarked for tomorrow's first-team training session. A great illustration of life for the grounds team at the very top of the Premier League.

"People think that a groundsman's job is just cutting grass, but it's so many different things," says Lee. "This filming is a good example of the extra pressures for Premier League groundstaff. The job moves at 100 miles an hour, but many people would give their right arm to work here."

Fortunately, Lee reckons that grass cover is better than ever, which will help with the recovery ahead of the following day's first full training session before the new season kicks off. "We've got grass cover everywhere," he continues. "Normally, we don't have any around the perimeters. When you think how much water we've had, what with the bad weather and all the hard work that's brought, it's just amazing how much grass we've actually got."

Last season's Premier League title winners agreed to field test a new ryegrass mixture, BAR 7 RPR, last year as part of the company's extensive product trial period ahead of its commercial launch. Trial pitches were sown at both Carrington and Platt Lane training grounds, with the most impressive result being at Carrington where Lee saw the pitch subjected to over 200 hours of play - equal to two years' play in just five months.
ManCity CarringtonCorner
Following on from this, the new mixture has now replaced the original BAR 7 sports perennial ryegrass the club used. Earlier this summer, it was sown across five of the six training pitches at Carrington, the Platt Lane's pitch is now a permanent fixture. The main stadium has also been sown with the mixture.

"The seed has established really rapidly this year," Lee says. "It came through quicker than last year. You'd think it would be the exact opposite after the record low sunlight, coupled with the hellish amount of water we've had. Because of the weather, we have struggled a bit with leaf spot. But, the combination of the grass seed and our first year using Primo Maxx has given us the coverage. We're hopeful the pitches will perform as well as last year."

With the team having won Professional Football Training Ground of the Year and Professional Sports Grounds Management Team of the Year for 2011, Lee says the pressure is on to keep the training ground in award-winning condition.

"This club never rests on its laurels. So, my team's job now is to keep the training ground looking good, and I'm certainly very happy with how the pitches are looking at the moment. Once we get some sun on them, they'll look even better."

ManCity Stadium Panorama"With the pressures of this job, you've got to be able to rely on the products you use as well as your suppliers. It's been great to have the commitment from Barenbrug in terms of research and development, and the pitches are looking good as a result of that."

Next, it was on to the Etihad Stadium pitch, which was overseeded with the new mixture on 28 June, just after the last concert of the summer. Both Lee and stadium head groundsman, Lee Jackson, are impressed.

"It's looking really good," Lee Jackson enthuses. "Of course, the real test will be how it performs in the middle of winter. But, overall, it's about thirty percent better than I would have expected its predecessor to perform. Which is surprising, given that we've just had, without doubt, one of the wettest summers we can remember. We've also had to cope with the lack of sunlight."

As well as the new mixture used, Lee Jackson attributes the strong establishment to his use of germination sheets for the first time this year. "We used the sheets after seeing how well they worked for Jon Calderwood and the staff at Aston Villa - they've performed equally well for us. Grasscover-wise, we're actually a little bit ahead of where we thought we'd be, but we want it to strengthen up a bit more. But, based on what I've seen so far, I'm extremely happy."

LeeJacksonIt's certainly hard to deny that the stadium pitch is looking fantastic. "It's the best it's ever looked, in my opinion. Both the stadium and the training grounds needed hard-wearing, disease resistant surfaces, and that's exactly what this mixture has delivered."

Before we leave, there's one last treat in store - a photo opportunity with the real Premier League trophy. It's clear the buzz of winning still hasn't worn off as the grounds team huddle together for a group shot. And, as Lee Jackson takes us through the rabbit-warren of corridors to the very top of the stadium, so the photographer can get elevated shots, it seems the whole building is abuzz with activity as post-concert renovations near completion.

Finally, we get the lowdown on the plans for the new academy and elite training ground facility, to be located next-door to the stadium.

With so much development underway, it's no wonder Lee Metcalfe said many would give their right arm to work here.



Carrington Training Ground Maintenance Diary

PITCH 3
13 and 14 May: Pitch fraise mowed by contractor J Mallinson Ormskirk
15 May: Multi-cored with side-eject tines
16 May: Applied 60 tonnes of sand
17 May: Dragmatted sand and brushed up fibres
18 May: Applied 300kg Everris Sportsmaster Pre-Seeder 8-12-8 fertiliser; 300kg Everris Sierrablen Plus Active 19-5-18 fertiliser; 150kg Everris Step Hi-Mag fertiliser; seeded with 18 bags of Barenbrug BAR 7 RPR
21 May: Verti-drained at 6 inches
25 to 30 May: Dug out drain slits
1 June: Applied 300kg Everris Greensmaster Pro-Lite NK 12-0-12 fertiliser
13 June: Overseeded with Barenbrug BAR 7 RPR; applied 100kg Everris Step Hi-Mag
18 June: Applied 275kg Everris Greensmaster Pro-Lite NK 12-0-12 fertiliser
25 June: Applied 1.25kg RT Eland Strobilurin Turf Fungicide
27 June: Overseeded with 6 bags Barenbrug BAR 7 RPR
2 July: Applied 300kg Everris Greensmaster Pro-Lite NK 12-0-12 fertiliser
5 July: Applied 80l Growing Solutions GS Consolidate Plus; 20l Bio Carb bio-stimulant
16 July: Applied 300kg Everris Greensmaster Pro-Lite Spring & Summer 14-5-10 fertiliser
17 July: Applied 300kg Everris Sierrablen Plus Active 19-5-18 fertiliser
19 July: Applied 500g Heritage fungicide
20 July: Applied 80l Everris Greensmaster Liquid NK 10-0-10 fertiliser; 0.8l Everris Primo Maxx grass growth regulator
26 July: Applied 100kg Everris Step Hi-Mag
30 July: Applied 300kg Everris Greensmaster Pro-Lite NK 12-0-12 fertiliser
31 July: Multi-cored at 5 inches

PITCH 4
23 April: Pitch koro'ed off by contractor J Mallinson Ormskirk
23 April to May: Drainage work
5 May: Applied 240 tonnes of topdressing
8 May: Applied 120kg Everris Step Hi-Mag; 2,500kg limestone
10 May: Used Powerharrow and roller
14 May: Seeded with 22 bags Barenbrug BAR 7 RPR
15 May: Applied 425kg Everris Sierrablen Plus Active 19-5-18 fertiliser; 425kg Everris Sportsmaster Pre-Seeder 8-12-8 fertiliser
29 May: First cut with Ransomes Jacobsen Mastiff heavy-duty roller mower
1 June: Applied 300kg Everris Greensmaster Pro-Lite NK 12-0-12 fertiliser
11 June: Overseed by hand with 1 bag Barenbrug BAR 7 RPR
12 June: Applied 80l Growing Solutions GS Consolidate Plus; 20l Bio Carb bio-stimulant
13 June: Applied 120kg Everris Step Hi-Mag
18 June: Applied 60l Growing Solutions GS Consolidate Plus; 15l Bio Carb bio-stimulant
19 June: Applied 1.25kg RT Eland Strobilurin Turf Fungicide
25 June: Applied 350kg Everris Greensmaster Pro-Lite NK 12-0-12 fertiliser
3 July: Applied 40l GoGreen Plus liquid iron
9 July: Applied 350kg Everris Greensmaster Pro-Lite Spring & Summer 14-5-10 fertiliser
13 July: Verti-drained at 9 inches
17 July: Applied 350kg Everris Sierrablen Plus Active 19-5-18 fertiliser
19 July: Applied 500g Heritage fungicide
24 July: Applied 80l Everris Greensmaster Liquid NK 10-0-10 fertiliser; 1.2l Everris Primo Maxx grass growth regulator
30 July: Applied 375kg Everris Greensmaster Pro-Lite NK 12-0-12 fertiliser
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