0 Liverpool Cricket Club - it’s a Blast at Aigburth

Teams of tired people have been shifting portable grandstands across Liverpool Cricket Club's home turf, Aigburth Cricket Ground, in preparation for Lancashire Lightning's opening fixture in the 2017 NatWest T20 Blast. A week earlier, those stands surrounded a tennis court on the same lawn. A couple of months earlier, there was a rugby union pitch where they stood. Jake Barrow headed to Liverpool 19 to meet Head Groundsman Terry Glover.

Lancashire Lightning were champions of the competition just two years ago, and were hoping to stage a repeat performance starting with the match in Liverpool against Leicestershire Foxes on Sunday 9th July at 2:30pm.

The men hoping to ensure that the surface is up to scratch are Head Groundsman Terry Glover, 49, who is approaching a three-decade landmark as the head man at the club, and his longstanding associate Keith Ball, 51.

The match was relocated to Aigburth because of the substantial work being undertaken at Old Trafford to accommodate the semi-impromptu benefit concerts for the victims of the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing, but this is just the most recent occasion in a long history of the Lancashire cricket team making the Liverpudlian ground its home.

In the 2011 season, for example, Old Trafford was undergoing extensive renovations and the team made Aigburth its base for six of its eight County Championship matches, compared with one match during most seasons. Although this resulted in a greater workload, it also yielded much stronger publicity for the ground, as well as leading to one of its greatest triumphs.

The triumph in question is one that Head Groundsman Terry Glover maintains is the proudest moment of his career: when playing this unusually high number of games at Aigburth, Lancashire won the 2011 County Championship. This was the first time the club had achieved the feat as outright winners (they shared the honour in 1950) in all of seventy-seven years - since the lifetime of Lawrence of Arabia.

Terry, of course, can't help but assign some of the credit to the state of the playing surface. And in recognition of this, he received a very special individual accolade that year, which he was too modest to point out of his own accord.

I stumbled across the certificate hanging in a plastic pouch from the wall of his shed and prompted him to elaborate on it. It read: 'Nomination. Head Groundsman of the Year. 2011. Outgrounds category.'

That year was manic, because it was basically one game a month April 'til September. And then, of course, for them to go on and win the County Championship for the first time in so long ... that's why I ended up taking the nomination for Head Outgroundsman of the Year

He recalls: "That year was manic, because it was basically one game a month April 'til September. And then, of course, for them to go on and win the County Championship for the first time in so long ... that's why I ended up taking the nomination for Head Outgroundsman of the Year."

This is surely all a testament to the performance and dedication of Terry and Keith. Their off-season, unlike those of single-sport clubs, occurs twice a year rather than just the once. This may sound like a luxury to those readers who fit their holidays in during this time. However, each off-season at Liverpool requires the staff to adhere to a turnaround of just a couple of weeks, transitioning the turf from rugby-fit, to tennis and finally cricket.

They have worked together at the club for around nineteen years, though what is now a lone partnership was once just Terry within a team of five.

Terry told me: "When I first started here years ago, we had three groundsmen plus two YTS members. Obviously, you don't have the YTS scheme anymore. But still, whenever there's a game on or anything like that, it seems like all the sections pull together to come and help us out."

"Actually, I think I'd really like to see it enforced to take some people on through apprenticeships and that sort of thing. I'd like to see the kids coming through and being taught that it's good to love what you do."

"They're all on computers all day and that sort of thing, so it'd just be good to see them getting outdoors and into a healthy lifestyle."

And, indeed, for a few months of each year, a large portion of the outfield is home to the rugby turf, housing local union side Liverpool Collegiate. Preparing for this is more than a matter of taking the 15-22mm blades down to an 8mm outfield.

In around March/April, a thorough scarifying also helps the transition to a neater look, which is then maintained lightly on the wickets every one or two weeks as the grass comes through, to avoid it becoming too long or providing too much opportunity for seam.

The ground, Terry points out, has traditionally been known as a batsman's haven, so they enjoy the balding wickets and quick outfields. It's said that a top-quality batsman would be genuinely disappointed to come to Aigburth in friendly conditions and fail to reach a ton of runs.

Having landscape naturally amenable to quick drainage, even with clay beneath the surface, they only undertake scheduled aeration on the wickets in the winter with manual slitters.

For weed control, the team contract Total Weed Kill to deal with spraying once a year, and cope with any issues in the intervening months in-house.

Again, the only contracting for overseeding takes place during the switching period around March. The contractor covers the outfield with around 60 tonnes of topdressing, spikes the ground and seeds when finished.

They tend to do most of their own during the summer months, making sure they frequently give attention to the wickets which are naturally vulnerable to degradation due to weather exposure. The wickets are Surrey GOSTD loam, and the outfield is topped with a layer of sand, which also doesn't gather in rain due to the comfortable drainage.

Liverpool don't take soil samples, because that is taken care of at least once a year by the visiting Lancashire staff anyway. They check for dryness, thatch content and at what depth water becomes an issue.

Their equipment includes: heavy duty roller 2500; Kubota 3200 tractor; MTD fosse machine (for use on the artificial surfaces including the tennis court); Blec Seedmaster; 18" Ransomes Auto Certes and a 20" Paladin mower - both of which are wicket mowers; 20" Ransomes mower, used on the bowling greens at the rear of the facility; Hayter rough cut; Stihl hedge trimmer; Mountfield strimmer; laser scarifier and outfield slitters and spikers.

When it comes to heavy duty machinery, sometimes the club will hire, for example if a rolling needs to be undertaken which requires greater weight than their primary device can supply. This is usually the case before any big games, as is the case for the T20 NatWest Blast fixture.

When not preparing for the arrival of Lancashire, who expect to draw a crowd of around 3,500 to the white ball match/heavy drinking session, the staff must regularly maintain the surface for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th XIs of Liverpool's own cricket team.

And it isn't just the heavy cricket schedule and transitions to rugby union which demand their attention. As Terry tells it: "Anything. Whatever the sport is ... bowls, squash, tennis, lacrosse. They can ring up and hire the club. We have a marquee for functions and weddings. The club has rooms to host these renters."

"At the moment, we have the Zimbabwe academy in here, and they're here for the next six months. They'll be using our facilities. That is the nets and the outfield for training sessions."

At this point, the interview digressed as a Kubota tractor just outside the window had apparently been dubbed 'The Jeremy Kyle'. Upon enquiry, Terry stifled a giggle and said: "Two or three years ago, the club said they were spending that much money on the repairs of the old tractor that it's just time to get it replaced."

At 9:30am every day, you see, we take our first break. And the joke is that's when the Jeremy Kyle show - and I don't watch it - is shown on the TV. They all take the mick and say that's what we're clocking off to go and do. They'd done a little sticker to help us not forget the running gag

"We got on to Kubota over the phone and they sorted us out with this new tractor. The Chairman at the time was called Tony White. When the tractor got delivered, he came up to us for a chat, and then he walked off as normal. It was only when he'd left we noticed he'd stuck this 'The Jeremy Kyle' sticker onto the tractor."

"At 9:30am every day, you see, we take our first break. And the joke is that's when the Jeremy Kyle show - and I don't watch it - is shown on the TV. They all take the mick and say that's what we're clocking off to go and do. They'd done a little sticker to help us not forget the running gag."

Terry's own individual involvement in the sporting world includes, other than some darts competitions in the winter months, a very successful turn as a crown green bowler. He won the 'Champion of Champions' competition in 2013 (winning in the final by a fairly convincing margin of 21-12), and makes the odd appearance on television in that capacity.

Last year, I got beaten in the semi-final of the Waterloo, which is a big competition in Blackpool. And I've got a DVD of that one too. I've maybe watched them more times than I should have done. It's a laugh too ... you get asked to choose your walk-in music, and I had 'Too Sexy' by Right Said Fred

He's blatantly proud of this: "In my spare time, I like playing crown green bowls. I've been on telly a few times, on ITV4. I think my guilty pleasure is watching back the footage on DVD of when I won it [Champion of Champions]."

"Last year, I got beaten in the semi-final of the Waterloo, which is a big competition in Blackpool. And I've got a DVD of that one too. I've maybe watched them more times than I should have done. It's a laugh too ... you get asked to choose your walk-in music, and I had 'Too Sexy' by Right Said Fred."

Clearly being an integral part of the light-hearted atmosphere here at the club, Terry lives on-site with his fiancée, Susan Noon. The not-to-shabby house overlooks the pitch directly and he jokes that his commute is around the region of thirty yards.

He sees it like a garden, which helps him to do his job correctly: "When I look outside my bedroom window and I can see something wrong, obviously that's a constant reminder that I'm not doing my job properly, so I don't let that happen."

"Out of your window, whenever there's a big event on, like the tennis tournaments, the cricket games or the rugby matches ... if you don't get a buzz out of that, there's something wrong with you, so that's really good to help you enjoy what you're doing."

"For that reason, presentation of the surfaces ranks really highly. Nowadays, you've got to take that as a given. The reality is: if it doesn't look good, it's not good. Because it's people's opinions that matter really, and the outer presentation is the first or only thing they see."

He went on to say that a person should take pride in their work, because it represents who you are - and this is surely even more the case when one is a central Liverpudlian who supports Manchester United.

He pleads his case: "I got into Man United through Lancashire, because I used to get free tickets as a rep for the club and just started supporting them, but that doesn't go down that well around here. Alex Ferguson is one of the great football managers though."

"If I have anything like a hero, he's a name that comes to mind. I've recently read his autobiography actually, and Wayne Rooney's. But not just United ones, I've just read Jimmy White's too."

The extent to which Terry's life revolves around his club doesn't end at his living on site. He and Sue are engaged to be married there, just 100 yards away at the other side of their picturesque 'back garden'.

And having had the facets of his life fall into place smoothly, it is perhaps not surprising that he sees life through a positive filter. He sums up his thought on life for us: "I think things are fated, to be honest. I just think whatever happens does so for a reason, and whether life's good or bad, it'll certainly be good again. And now, I'm in a good place."

"At the end of the day, I wouldn't be with the person I'm with now if anything had been different in my life. So, I wouldn't change anything."

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