STEVE Mulford has only ever been with one football team, as player, manager, chairman and finally groundsman.
Now his 43 years of dedication and loyalty have paid off.
The man behind East Hendred FC's carefully tended pitch has been crowned Groundsman of the Year by Berks and Bucks FA. The father-of-two spends up to six hours each week looking after his turf, aerating, tidying, cutting and drying.
He said it is all worth it when he sees the players run out onto a perfect pitch.
Mr Mulford, who lives on Ladygrove, Didcot, with wife Lucy, said he was "chuffed to bits" with his award. The 57-year-old said: "A lot of the players have sent me Facebook messages saying congratulations.
"I must have had about 50 messages from people I have known over the years."
"I don't do it for the thanks but it means a hell of a lot when you know people appreciate what you do."
His work starts at the beginning of the season in September when he gets the grass "Verti-Drained", using a £20,000 machine, which perforates the pitch with eightinch deep holes to get oxygen to the roots, aid draining and boost growth. Throughout the season he regularly "drag mats" - the act of dragging a steel sheet along the pitch with a tractor to pull up clods of earth, which are sticking out. If the pitch is too wet for a tractor, he will drag the mat on foot. He also uses a fork to perform the same job in more detail by hand.
The Rutherford Appleton laboratory transport worker said: "It takes a bit more time but it's worth it."
He admits: "I do obsess but I get a great deal of satisfaction when it looks good."
He cuts the grass, paints the white lines and at the end of the season he has to get the pitch ready to be used by the village cricket club. To do that, the grass is chain harrowed, breaking up and levelling the soil and stimulating growth. The club spends £800 on grass seed and spreads 16 tonnes of top soil each year.
Mr Mulford was also named Berks and Bucks Groundsman of the Year in 2010, when he spent his £500 prize money on a new drag mat.
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