December, without the Merriment!
By Steve Patrick
It's been a while since I last let you all know how we were doing up here in sunny Blackburn. (Well it was on August 15th anyway). When I last wrote we had just staged the England U 21's international match against Greece at Ewood Park. It all went quite well, but it now seems such a long time ago.
That's enough of all that, because the month of December is when the really hard work begins. I may be the moaning old Git from BRFC but there are some things that need to be said.
Saturday the 1st of December was the first of six fixtures to be played on the pitch this month, and we welcomed with open arms, Middlesbrough FC to Ewood Park, well I use the word welcome very sparingly because having already sampled the delights of this set of players in an earlier round of the Worthington cup we had a good idea of what we were in for!
The warm up, conducted by Steve Harrison their 1st team coach, was the most complicated and destructive routine yet witnessed in my near twenty-five years of Groundsmanship. There were more cones on the pitch than you will find on the M6 motorway on a bank holiday! Combining with 'Harry' Harrison was Paul Barron their goalkeeping coach, not content with a pre match warm up in the official goal mouth, Mr Barron came back out to warm the reserve keeper up again in the goal mouth at half time.
When is the FA going to set down guidelines regarding warm ups, perhaps some time limits or even a fine system, to compensate clubs for the associated damage caused by opposing teams?
Why clubs have to spend so much time on warm ups and cause so much damage to the pitch before the game even starts is beyond me. It never used to be this way!
We always put out portable goals on the pitch for the sole purpose of saving wear to the goal areas, this effort spent was obviously too difficult to understand for Mr Barron. I am sincere when I say that neither of the above mentioned would be on my Xmas card list. Added to my little black book is Mark Crossley the goalkeeper, who finds great difficulty kicking the ball off the surface without taking out a square yard of turf at the same time.
I have now turned to religion and am praying that we don't draw Middlesbrough in the F A cup. Everybody knows that an intense warm up session will do more damage than the actual game, yet the players are bent on using the areas of highest wear to practice, instead of using the 'grey matter' that we are all born with and going out on the wings. In one afternoons football I saw my South end goalmouth damaged beyond repair and will have to 'slab' turf all the way to the eighteen-yard box before long to keep it stable. Is the FA aware of the costs involved for even a small mid season repair such as this?
Moving on to last night the 4th of December, the youth team played their youth cup-tie against Chelsea on the main pitch, they won 4-0. With so many fixtures already, we will now have to see what the next round draw will bring for them and us.
I always find the kids and the reserves far more appreciative and respectful of the pitch than the senior squad players, last night, both sets of keepers used the portable goals for their warm ups and all serious warm ups by the outfield players were conducted either off the playing surface or on the wings.
Fortunately the weather has not been too bad, but for a few heavy showers and quite mild as well.
This Sunday we entertain Leeds United at home and again I will ask as usual, the opposing players politely to warm up outside of the goal (bar crosses), and for the coaches to respect the pitch. No doubt it will fall on deaf ears but I can only live in hope.
The remaining home fixtures this year include Arsenal, Sunderland and just to cap of a great month Derby County on the 29th. So much for an enjoyable Christmas, I suppose I'll be here, sober, cold wet through and cursing footballers for never sparing a thought for the poor old sods preparing their stages for them.
The only merriment this month may come from the occasional bottle left on my desk by friendly fertiliser reps (Now I am living in hope).
Hear is yours truly, wishing all you Groundsmen and Greenkeepers alike a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.