Pre-Season Report On Tividale FC
By Chris Charles
Since joining the club nearly three years, the pitch has transformed dramatically. It was an absolute quagmire to say the very least. That said, the pitch is still not up to the standard that I want. At the end of the day there are still too many games played on it. It does still have drainage problems, although not to the extent that it did three years ago.
Renovation work was carried out in May by local contractors ALS from Telford on a very wet Friday 16th. The work was carried out efficiently in poor weather conditions. Approximately 5 tonnes of 70/30 rootzone was applied to the goal areas and linesman run ups, with another 50 tonnes of washed sterilised sports sand applied to the rest of the pitch and run ups.
When the job was completed I was apprehensive at the amount of sand that was still lying on the surface. This was due to the extremely wet conditions at the time of application. My initial plans were to rotovate the goal areas and linesman' run ups prior to renovation work being carried out. However, I couldn't get a rotovator to the pitch until Saturday 17th. This wasn't too much of a problem and so I set about my task.
I spent 2 hours rotovating the areas between the goals and the edge of the 18 yard boxes along with the run ups. This was carried out in various directions to ameliorate the rootzone with the indigenous soil. I then applied 5 bags of an absorbent material called Biosorb to each of these areas and rotovated again. I then raked the areas into a slight camber to aid surface drainage. Seed was applied by hand and raked in. Within an hour of me finishing the task it thankfully began to rain.
There followed another 9 days of wet weather in various guises, ranging from heavy rain to light showers. The seed germinated in 8 days. I was absolutely delighted as the conditions were similar to the previous closed season and the pitch turned out ok then. I put my 'neck on the block' by stating that I felt that the pitch would be the best that it ever had been. What a stupid thing to say!
The weather the improved but a period started where the grass seemed to do absolutely nothing. At the time I didn't panic as I had the opportunity to water the pitch with an automatically timed sprinkler at various times of the day. Although this did help, the grass still seemed to struggle to grow. The temperatures were up and down which maybe confused the grass.
On Saturday June 22nd, Alan James, the manager asked me if he could have a game played on Tuesday 15th July. I explained the situation with the pitch and that at that time it wasn't too brilliant and that it would need as much time as possible to be ready for yet another onslaught. The game was to be a high profile one that could bring in valuable revenue. More so at this lower level of football as it is vital to get 'bums on seats'. Gate receipts and bar takings are a major source of revenue. We both agreed that we would make an assessment closer to the day of the game. Which leads me appropriately to my next point.
Up to the time that I took over looking after the pitch, people generally 'mucked in' with work that they thought needed doing to the pitch. This led to too much rolling that just compacted the pitch detrimentally. Up until recently I had at my disposal a 36" Dennis cylinder mower, Sisis pedestrian slitter and both a wet and dry line marker. I asked the Chairman of the club, Don Aston, what the chances of getting a compact tractor with 3 point linkage would be. (If you don't ask, you don't get!) I was told to get a price.
My point is that, if you keep the 'powers that be' informed of what will be of benefit to the pitch and show results, you can, if funds are available, get what you need.
With just weeks to go before the first game, the pitch was suffering badly through lack of growth due to the dry spell that we had had. With the forecast of thunderstorms and heavy rain for Sunday 22nd June I decided to apply seven bags of 20:10:10. It threatened to rain all day. At 7 o'clock the sun came out. However this was short lived as by 10 pm, thankfully it began to rain.
At 4 am the next morning I was woken by torrential rain. This continued for most of the morning. By Wednesday the pitch had started to green up nicely and there was fresh growth. The same happened the following week. Rain was imminent and so I applied a further 3 bags of 20:10:10 to parts of the pitch that needed it most. Again it rained. The pitch then grew 'like the clappers'.
I was struggling to keep up with the mowing with my Dennis cylinder mower as I only work at the club on a part time basis. The grass was getting stalky to say the least. Thankfully the Wessex rotary arrived at the right time. Since its arrival I have cut the pitch virtually everyday. This has helped to thicken the sward considerably.
With 6 days to go before the first friendly I marked out the spaces for the mowing bands. I have managed to widen the pitch by 1 yard to 71 yards. This is all that I can achieve due to limited space. I did this because the linesman run ups hadn't responded well and now the old run ups are inside the new pitch line. Since then I have cut the pitch every day to improve it aesthetically.
Today I cut it on the hottest day of the year so far. Around 1100 calories were used up in this process. When I finished I had no option but to replenish these lost calories with a few pints of Guinness! It was all worthwhile! I plan to mow again tomorrow and mark out on the day of the game. It is then downhill all the way until May 2004. The pitch from a distance does look good. It certainly is better than ever before. It is still not as good as I would like it though, some of the grass appears to be prostrate as opposed to being upright. I have brushed the pitch to bring up the grasses prior to mowing, but I feel that due to inadequate irrigation, the grass cells have become flaccid. I have three pre-season friendlies arranged to my knowledge. There will probably be more. The first league game is on Saturday 16th August. I have at least another month to try to get things right. And I will try to do this to the best of my ability.
A problem that I have at the moment is parent foxes along with four cubs. Some early birds at the club think that they are cute. I bet they wouldn't think that if they were residing in their back garden! I recently re-laid turf in certain areas only for it to be dug up again. I am also finding what appears to be urine damage along with plenty of feathers. It is still an uphill struggle. One that I do find frustrating but also a challenge.
As I stated earlier, the Club, the bar staff, players, whoever, are a great bunch of people. It makes all the hard work more pleasurable when I finish whatever I am doing, to go into the Club to relax with a few pints and have a chat with people.
I therefore raise my glass to you all out there and wish you all the very best for the forthcoming season.
The photos that accompany this report show how much the pitch is in need of water now to green things up. It is pale in comparison to what it was just 3 weeks ago.