In one of the greatest sporting stories of all time, Leicester City Football Club beat the 5000-1 odds to be crowned Premier League champions last season.
And generating as much excitement as the fairytale playing triumphs of Vardy, Mahrez, Kante and the team was the quality of the King Power Stadium playing surface and the beautiful, not to mention intricate, designs created by head groundsman John Ledwidge and his grounds team of ten.
The Foxes received many plaudits for the designs etched into the stadium's turf throughout the season, but it was the diamond and star pattern concluding the season that really got pitch fans around the world hailing the talent of the grounds team.
John, who has been at the club for two and a half years and uses the Toro ProCore 648 pedestrian aerator on the stadium pitch and has three Reelmaster 3100 triple mowers and a Workman HDX for the training pitches, hopes that the recent publicity will make people more aware of the work groundsmen up and down the country do and increase the appreciation of the technical skill involved in the industry.
"Our pitch designs have become a big talking point this year and I like to think they have people taking notice of what a great job groundsmen everywhere are doing, no matter what the club or league," he says. "We are fortunate enough to be on the biggest stage in world football and I hope that myself and my team have helped raise the profile of groundsmanship and the vital part we all play at all levels of sport."
Toro has long been a part of the Leicester City shed, thanks to its "longstanding reputation and attention to detail in the design."
"Toro helps us maintain the quality we set for our playing surface," John continues. "I have used them in previous roles too and have always rated them from both an operator and management point of view."
Preparing the Desso stadium pitch for the rigours of play the ProCore 648 is used monthly to "soften the playing surface with minimal surface disruption", while producing a "high quality finish" for the training ground pitches, John and the team use three Toro Reelmaster 3100-D ride-on mowers, with Toro's renowned Dual Precision Adjustment (DPA) cutting units, daily throughout the cutting season and twice a day in the height of summer. Concluding the Toro line-up is a Workman HDX with sprayer and fertiliser attachments, which is "a godsend" according to John. "With the various attachments. It's a well-used machine, all-year-round."
So looking to the future, John, who's involved with facilitating educational days at the club and engaging with schoolchildren who could well be the groundsmen of tomorrow, it's more of the same: "I'm incredibly fortunate in that I enjoy every aspect of my job. From day-to-day operations, to managing a fantastic team and working closely with the board of directors, it's a very versatile role, but of course I am now very much looking forward to the challenges ahead in the Champions League!"