New Pitch for a year!
The pitch was originally constructed in 1987 using a little known type of pitch construction called the 'cell system'. This was in effect, a huge bath filled with sand. Water could be either pumped in to the pitch or drained out when required. The cell system was great in theory but in practice fell down during the long cold months of the British winter.
Once the growing season finished and the roots regressed the pitch became less stable as wear started to thin the sward. Eventually the diamond thinned to such an extent that the surface became unstable, even unplayable. Over the years much soil and root zones have been added to the sand to help build up the organic material and provide stability. When Frank arrived six years ago the pitch was covered in weeds and what grass there was, consisted of mainly Poa annua and was shallow rooted.
At that time the club was in the third division of the football league (I remember it so well) and there was little money available, certainly not much for the pitch. However Frank managed to get cash to spray the pitch with herbicide and vertidrain the surface. He purchased the seed, but had to spread it by hand because he couldn't afford to get a machine in to do the work. The pitch was strung out into grids in order for him to broadcast the seed evenly. The pitch was then finally top-dressed with 100 tonnes of 70/30: sand/soil root zone.
Once renovated he then followed an intensive spiking program to alleviate some of the problems using a Sisis slitter and a Patterson pedestrian spiker and to some degree this helped the root growth, but the pitch was in decline and it became a constant battle to get the pitch through to the end of each season.
Last season the pitch problems came to a head, the surface held water in the top like a sponge, and with the team being elected to the Premier (Hooray!!), a solution needed to be found to provide a stable and decent playing surface that also met with the television and commercial requirements of top flight football.
The building of the new stadium at the Cottage will begin in earnest at the end of this season so the new pitch which was laid in May/June is actually down for this year only.
Mallinsons Ltd were contracted to reconstruct the pitch, so as soon as the 00/01 season was over, the surface vegetation was stripped off and removed. The old levels were re-graded and some new drainage was installed.
Enough fibre reinforced root zone was imported to build the existing levels up a further 250mm, and then graded using laser guided machinery.
Fortunately a pop-up irrigation scheme was installed this year, the previous system consisted of a small tank and self-travelling sprinklers, but the tank would run dry before the sprinklers could get half way down the pitch!
To aid establishment of the new grass, the pitch has been regularly fertilised with both granular and liquid feeds, these feeds have varied from 12:6:9 to 10:15:10 at a rate of 300kgs per application. With a much freer draining surface, Frank has the ability to get on when he wants to mow and aerate. He has added a Toro multicore machine to his equipment shed and now frequently spikes the pitch using needle tines to encourage gaseous exchange, improve the root structure and aid water percolation rates.
Post match works now involve about half a days worth of divoting. The damage is only limited, due to the reinforcement in the pitch so only heel marks and scrapes are the order of the day. Frank and Anthony tend to cut the pitch using a ride on Toro triple except prior to matches when the 36" Allett is used to define the bands crisply.
The reserves play at Woking FC, leaving the turf at the Cottage used solely for 1st team games and occasional training. Frank said ' the surface is a completely different animal to what I have been used to previously, and because it is only here for one year I have the chance to experiment with a fibre root-zone pitch. Following the last five years of crawling through the mud after games to find some grass, Anthony and I now enjoy working on a quality surface watching some quality football'. (some may disagree, but I'm with Frank on that one!)