Long term program works well for Keighley.
By David Markham
David Marshall has engineered a transformation in the condition of the pitch since he arrived at Keighley Cougars' Rugby League Club nearly seven years ago.
The former Bradford Bulls Groundsman said: "When I came to Keighley in July 1996 the pitch was like Blackpool beach, but we have seen a vast improvement since then."
David has brought about the improvements through a steady programme of repair and maintenance.
He said: "First, we managed to get the pitch flattened and levelled. Then, the centre of the pitch has been rotovated and seeded twice. I wasn't happy with the work the first time, but the supporters club provided £3,000 for it to be done again.
"We fertilise the pitch five times a year - in early spring and three summer feeds, in late May, early July and late August and then in late October or early November.
"We also verti-drain the pitch twice a year and cut it three times a week in the summer months. We have a contractor, who comes once a year to spray for weeds.
"We also apply three bags of Barenbrug's Bar 7, a hard wearing rye grass seed every year."
David is well off for machinery and has use of a Ransomes 36 ins mower, a Ransomes 30 ins mower with outfield spiker, brush and scarifier attachments as well as a 15 ins Hayter mower.
The fact that Rugby League is mainly a summer sport means that the old days of mud baths, frozen and snow bound pitches are distant memories.
Playing in summer also means that Keighley are anxious to have football partners at their ground in Lawkholme Lane.
Last year they tried to persuade Guiseley from the Unibond League to share their facilities at Cougar Park, but the Wharfedale based club decided to stay at their home ground rather than move to Keighley 12 miles away.
Since then, however, they have established links with Silsden, three miles down the Aire Valley, who are anxious to move up the football ladder and need improved facilities to fulfil their ambitions.
Silsden, who are currently playing in the West Riding County League want to move into the feeder system by joining the Northern Counties East League.
They have played a handful of matches at Cougar Park in the last few months of the current season, but will play there full time from the start of next season.
This means that David will have to adjust the height of the grass. "It won't be as short as they like it for football, but shorter than they like it for rugby," he said. "It is a question of compromise."