New look training ground
I was met at reception by the man in charge Martin Chivers and given the guided tour of the now Academy status facility. There is still much work in the pipeline but the changes at the sports ground are impressive.
There are three full size pitches at the ground, all of which mirror the size of the pitch at Craven Cottage (101x68mtrs). A further two slightly smaller pitches are used for Ladies football, academy games and training.
For academy and winter training there is a full size synthetic surface in place, with a new smaller area forERDC contractors, who are installing the carpethope to complete shortly, theproject is going to be the dimensions of an 18-yard box.
This synthetic 'field turf' area, which comprises of a rubber crumb filled carpet, is as close to the 'real thing' as I have witnessed, (I recently had the pleasure of kicking a ball around the Blackburn Academies Indoor Centre with Steve Patrick which houses a full size 'Field Turf' pitch).
Martin has been maintaining the pitches to a height of 25mm (1") through the autumn and winter using a John Deere triple mower and a five unit Toro mower. He also uses a pedestrian Dennis 36" machine for a nicely defined finished cut.
The pitches have been regularly brushed using an eight foot tractor mounted brush and also a Sisis Litamina sweeper (to help remove debris).
The brushing removes weak, dead and decaying grass, helping to avoid the build up of thatch and the spread of disease.
During the winter period, divoting and root-zoning are the order of the day. Getting the pitches put back flat and prepared ready for the next training session is imperative in case they freeze overnight. There is a set of frost covers at the ground which Martin and the team are currently putting across the First team pitch and other small training areas. This is labour intensive but helps to ensure that there are soft areas to train on each day after heavy frost.
The only respite that Martin and his team have is that the academy closes down at Christmas and the youth teams don't come back until the second week in January. The first team though continue to train throughout the Christmas period and New Year so the work never really stops and in addition the ground staff travel up to the Cottage to be available on match days.
Martin is looking to revamp his equipment at the ground and hopes to purchase a rotary ride on Etesia. He added that he will be posting some of his second hand 'kit' on our Pitchcare website to sell, so that he can make further additions to his machinery stock!