New manager, new ideas and a new training pitch
By Dave Roberts, Head Groundsman, Southampton FC
Paul Sturrock, the former Plymouth manager, has taken over at Southampton and, to be fair to him, he has been very good with the way he organizes his training. He has used different areas at the training ground, something that previous managers haven't done. He is spreading the wear around.
We haven't had time for much of a chat, but I am aware of his work at Plymouth and he had a similar mentality with regard to using the areas sensibly. He's joined us in the middle of the season so he has had enough to contend with getting to know the team. He's still finding his feet. It's early days, but I would say that things have changed for the better from my point of view.
Saying that, the first team are training at the stadium tomorrow, but there's a very good reason for it - we are digging up our main pitch at the training ground as we speak. We have decided to rebuild from scratch. The drainage system had gone completely. Over the years we have had a couple of re-turfs on the top surface, but the soil that comes in is not the best after about a season's use, it gets very compacted. New drainage was desperately needed, so we decided to start from the base.
We were going to do it at the end of the season, but the manager said he would prefer to have it done now so that it is ready for use for the start of pre season training.
Work started after the reserve match on Tuesday. Kestrel are the contractors. They were in first thing Wednesday morning and they are getting on very well. We are expecting all the bulldozers and graders to have done their work and the area laser levelled by the end of the weekend. Then they will start bringing in the drainage gang to cut the drains in. We are putting in new drains at 3 metre centres, followed by a gravel carpet and 150-200mm of sandy soil, as opposed to rootzone. Every 2 feet there will be a sand slit that goes down from the surface to the gravel carpet.
The plan was to get the seed in place by the end of the season, around the middle of May, but the way things are going at the moment we will be well ahead of that.
There is nothing being done on the Stadium pitch at the moment. We've got three more Premier League matches, plus another 9 games, making 12 in total. The final game, on 17th May, is a testimonial for Danny Wallace but, once that's over, we'll get on the pitch. The following day we will take the top off with a Koro, add 80 tonnes of medium/coarse sand, verti drain then work the sand into the vertidrain holes. Finally, we will overseed and fertilise.
The Koro work and verti draining is being done by contractors but the rest will be done by ourselves.
There are no guarantees but, in the summer, I am hoping to get some new machinery - another tractor and a couple of triple mowers (Toro 2000s), one for the training ground and one for the stadium.