Brian Clough famously said: "If God had meant football to be played in the air he would have put grass in the sky." Down at ground level at Hibernian FC's new training centre near Ormiston in East Lothian, there's plenty of perfectly manicured green stuff in evidence, and plenty of John Deere green to keep it all maintained to top professional standards.
Following completion of all the ground work, pitch construction and hard and soft landscaping, local business Alan J Bain Contractors Ltd won a five year contract to carry out the grass and grounds maintenance at the centre, which is used by the club's professional and academy players.
Set up in January 1981, AJB now employs 24 people full-time and specialises in playing field construction and maintenance throughout the UK, with five or six sites on the go at any one time. For Hibernian, the company built the training centre's pitches from scratch, with construction starting in February 2007.
The centre was officially opened last December, and now boasts five grass pitches, each the same size as the main Easter Road ground's, a goalkeeper's training area, and both indoor and outdoor FIFA Two Star rated Polytan artificial pitches - the indoor pitch is actually in a converted farm research centre building where Dolly the sheep was originally cloned.
The developed site covers 36 acres, and there are plans to build five more natural turf football pitches and a show pitch on an additional 26 acres. Hibernian FC is also working very closely with East Lothian Council and the local community to provide future access to the facilities for youth football in the area.
"This whole development has been very much the vision of club chairman Rod Petrie," explains Alan Bain. "Hibs used to train at various sites around the city, and the club had been looking for its own facility for 10 years before it found this site.
"When we build sports pitches anywhere in the country, we usually have to cut the grass for one year after completion as part of the contract. We have been using John Deere mowers for the last 10 years now, all bought from local dealer Thomas Sherriff & Co at Haddington, who are always very helpful if we have any problems or we want advice on the best type of mower to use in different situations.
"On new pitches we tend to use rotary mowers for the first cuts, as the grass is getting established, as we find they don't pull at the grass quite so much as cylinder mowers," says Alan. "We also run a number of John Deere tractors, as we have a policy of one operator per machine to get the best out of both."
The mower line-up at Hibernian's training centre includes a 3235C five-gang cylinder mower equipped with collection boxes, a 1565 front rotary mower with V-Flex articulated deck and an X300R lawn tractor with rear grass collector.
Large 6310SE 100hp and 6420S 120hp tractors are used for drainage operations - nine miles of pipe drainage has already been put in, and to finish it off 60,000 linear metres of sand slitting is being carried out across the whole grass site. The tractor fleet is completed by a 4520 52hp compact tractor, fitted with a 400CX front loader and ComfortGard quiet cab.
Additional equipment includes a Pro Gator heavy-duty utility vehicle with TD100 top dresser, which did the original seeding with a homemade grass seeder. This diesel powered machine can also be fitted with a load bed for work as a general transporter, in addition to the 4x2 petrol Turf Gator, which is in use all day every day.
Alan Bain of Alan J Bain Contractors Ltd at Hibernian FC's new training centre.
(Left to right) Alan Bain, Bobby Forrest, Sandy Clarkson, Jim Burrell and Wayne Simpson of Alan J Bain Contractors Ltd, with Richard Scott, groundcare division general manager of John Deere dealership Thomas Sherriff & Co.
The striking monolith at the entrance to Hibernian FC's training centre is made of natural Caithness stone, and the decorative stone chips are all Scottish white marble. State of the art changing, medical and sports science facilities are contained within the 2700m2 training centre building. Brian Clough's is one of many motivational quotations featured on the walls of the centre's well-equipped gym.
John Deere's Pro Gator works as a seeder, top dresser and general transporter.