Green Grass of School Maintenance
By Lee Jackson
Each Sunday, at least three of Manchester City's Academy teams play at the local secondary school about one mile from Maine Road. In return for the use of the playing field by the club, we look after the whole area on behalf of the school itself The area consists of four pitches - one 100 yard by 65 yards, one 90yds by 60yds and two smaller pitches, 65yds by 40yds and 60yds by 40yds.
In addition to matches, the area is used by the school of over 1000 pupils at break time and for their games lessons. The area itself is in the shape of the letter 'l' so, when marking out at the start of the season, you need to be spot on with the measurements to get everything in just right.
The worst pitch is the 90yds x 60yds. It has so many bumps and dips that it holds water quite easily in certain areas, as you can see from this picture of the six yard box after just 13mm of rain 36 hours earlier.
We only do basic maintenance such as cutting, rolling and marking out. The area tends to look after itself with it being very weedy grass with a very good covering. It doesn't divot as such but, when wet, can leave some deep imprints in the wetter areas.
At the moment we are only rolling and marking out. It can be a bit of a nightmare at the best times due to the school using the facility all day everyday during the week, meaning constant use all the time. It can also be a nightmare when 'stringing out' to mark the lines when there are games lessons going on; a lot of common sense and patience is required-school groundsmen, you all have my sympathy!
We keep a transfer wheel marker at the school with a stock of paint; in the summer we will bring over a ride on rotary mower to cut the field once a week. At the moment we are using the tractor from the ground with a roller on the back. We drive across, which isn't too bad as it is only a 10 minutes away, and the vehicle is taxed and registered to enable us to do this.
The goals are kept locked at the top end of the field so that they don't get in the way of the school during the week. They are all wheel mounted for ease of movement on matchday by the Academy staff.
So there it is. To all school and local authority groundstaff who think we don't know what you are going through, well we do - and I wouldn't swap places with you for the world!