Big European Night at Old Trafford.
April fools day and I was in early on a wonderful sunny morning. Decided to spray the pitch with Maxicrop green up # 6. It always cheers everyone up when you come into a stadium and the grass is a lovely bright striped green. The heat of the day is enough to ensure we get a "kick" out of the spray.
Another lovely sunny day as I drove into work on Monday morning. I had a walk all over and it has greened up nicely. I decided to cut lengthways to just top it off.
Today is a funny sort of day. In European matches the opposition are allowed to train for one hour the night before the game. If there is a dafter rule in football I am yet to find it! They always arrive with 20 players of which 3 are goalkeepers. They have a portable goal on the half way line and play 10 a- side. Then they turn the portable goal around and play again, this time in the other half! They always, no matter what, insist on a "feel of the pitch" the night before.
I had invited the conference party from Haydock to visit me here at Old Trafford today. When I arranged all of this we were going to be away in the first leg but it is just my luck that we are at home instead. There were about 150 people here to see Old Trafford. The stadium was being transformed with the Champions League logo's and every where was a hive of activity. I spoke to everyone for 45 minutes and I felt it went well. It had put me under pressure having the visit but it is always nice to see old friends and to make new one's.
They left me late afternoon to go onto the "other" Old Trafford, the home of Lancashire county cricket club.
As you would expect, it began to rain an hour before training was due to start. It poured down for a good hour and a half. The pitch took it ever so well but I cursed my luck once more.
Bayern Munich were our opponents. They trained as you would have expected. Only one hour of time and that is all they used. They mixed it up with short and long play. Portable goal on the half way line and 10 a - side. Very, very skilful and lots of energy. Everything was done with the precision as you would have expected.
As soon as they had finished I was on to access the damage. The goal at the East end had cut up a fair bit. With 3 keepers for nearly an hour that was no surprise. The rest had played really well, I decided just to divot and rake it. I use rubber rakes in the goals and anywhere that is a bit scuffed. My men and I got into the bays, 3 a bay so as not to miss any divots. We divoted and raked for nearly 2 hours. I rang the forecaster and they said we would have a dry night so I put off rolling it. That forecast allowed me to keep machines off of it while it dried out a bit after the rain.
I drove in for the third day running in bright sunshine, many more days like this and Manchester will get a bad name !
We got straight in and cut the pitch lengthways. We then cut across using the two Allett Buffallos that I have. They are great to give you a really sharp pattern and give a good cut as well without any compaction. A really good light mower with which I can cut and roll the pitch in just over an hour using both of them. A member of staff and I walk the bays again looking for any divots we may have missed. It always looks different in daylight as opposed to working under floodlights the night before.
I then marked out using a spray marker. I only ever use wheel to wheel markers usually, but this year for some reason my lines have broken up more than normal. I mark out every line 3 times. I like to be able to see every line bright from anywhere inside the stadium.
I allow it long enough to dry before starting to put some water on to the surface to "slicken it up" a bit for the players. I irrigate up to 6-30pm and it feels just right to me as I come off.
The warm up creates a bit of damage. The goal they trained in has a few divots, it may not be wet enough but you can never tell until they play on it?
We have a last walk over, check the nets, put a few little divots back and get off. I always carry a net support cord in my pocket " just in case". I am always nervous as we kick off.
These European nights are something special though. The whole day had been a rush to this moment and now the noise is just immense.
We lost on the night 1-0. It had began to rain in the last 20 minutes and I fancied us to score. It was not to be and that German stubberness held firm to the end.
A disappointing end to a day which we had all looked forward to and enjoyed so much. No time to mope around though, out onto the pitch to get the divots back ready for the next game here at Old Trafford. Arsenal v Tottenham in the FA cup semi-final.
There is never a dull moment at Old Trafford.