In at the Deep End.
By Bromley FC`s Head Groundsman - Mark Avenell
In June 2005 I became the Head Groundsman for Bromley Football Club. I've been a supporter of Bromley Football Club for 15 years and had been helping out in the summer as a volunteer to maintain the ground. I am also the club photographer and I am very well known at the club.
After spending 4 years at High Elms golf course as a green keeper I felt I needed a change. I spoke with club chairman Jerry Dolke and he was happy for me to take on the role of Head Groundsman and to start when I liked.
So here I was faced with a brand new pitch (only 4 weeks old) and I had never worked on a football pitch in my life; I had only ever played on them. The start was not too bad as I had grown in turfed areas at the golf club.
We used two water carts that ran overnight to water the pitch. They ran along on wires and the water would turn cogs and that would wind in the wire making the cart move. It took about 16 hours for them to reach the other end of the pitch.
We had someone come in to fertilize the pitch so that was one thing I did not need to worry about for the time being. The summer was great - out cutting every other day as the grass went mad. The other thing that hit me was that I was now calling the shots and this gave me a personal boost.
Things were looking up. I had only just got married and we had a baby on the way. The day before the opening friendly on the new pitch I had to cut it down to playing length. The only problem was I had sent the Ransome Mastiff in for a service as it had not been done before I started the job. So we were stuck with a very out of condition 36 inch Allett that pulled to the left all the time. I started at 8am and did not walk out of the gate until 8pm. I even had to call in some help to clear the the grass clippings with me.
The next day I had to line out the pitch for the first time and getting all the measurements right was good fun, trying to use a white liner for straight lines instead of the circles I used to do around the temporary green at the golf course. I was very happy with my first attempt at marking out even though my mates did give me stick about every tiny wobble in the lines at the game that night.
I knew I had a hard season ahead as we have 4 teams playing on the pitch - Bromley FC of course, Cray Wanderers, Bromley FC's Under 18`s & U13`s. I had a feeling that the pitch would be ruined by November. However, things got better when the Mastiff returned with a brand new cylinder fitted.
The first few months were hard work but people's positive comments made it all worth it. The players at the club praised it and away teams were always impressed with it. I even got to play on the pitch when our supporter's team took on the chairman's XI featuring a few Bromley legends. We lost but gave them a game.
I got a bit behind with some work on the pitch when my daughter was born in mid September and I was away for a few days with my wife Angela. My daughter Elizabeth made her first Bromley game at 6 days old and when she is old enough to walk she will be helping me with the divots. The manager wanted to use the pitch to train on, and I let them use it twice. However, the damage done was rather bad so I had to put a stop to it with the help of the chairman to back me up.
We then hit the winter months and the wet weather was really worrying me with heavy rain on days before games, but the new drainage system seemed to take the top surface water away very quickly unlike the old one used to.
The cutting became less frequent and so my fitness was starting to suffer. However, the pitch was looking great (so I was told) but to me it looked dreadful. This was due to the fact that I had been working on a golf course for 4 years and was used to seeing perfect grass on playing areas.
In my first year I have managed to keep the grass on the centre of the pitch still at Christmas - something our pitch has never seen at this time of year. There are the usual worn areas like the goal mouth and the middle is thin but still has a good cover of grass. Maybe someone was smiling down on me or I had just been lucky with the weather during games. Whatever it was, I'm very happy with our pitch and I really hope to have a good cover of grass by the end of the season. What a great debut as Head Groundsman working for the team I've always supported.
The man who was in charge of laying our new pitch drops in now and then to see how it's all going. He has been very pleased with the way it looks and I hope to keep it that way.
I really am enjoying working for the club. They really care about what you have to say about things; at the golf course is was like talking to a brick wall. I'm still in touch with the lads at High Elms as it's always good to keep contacts in this job - especially when you're working for a non-league club with a tight budget. I hope to start doing my own fertilizing in the coming year to save on the budget. I have had the old help from people with work on the pitch including my wife who marked out the pitch for me one day. She did a very good job and will call on her again when I am over worked.