For anyone over the age of fifty, Nottingham Forest Football Club will be remembered as one of 'the' teams of the late seventies and early eighties. Managed at the time by the redoubtbable Brian Clough, the club won the European Cup (now the Champions League) on two occasions, the Division One title and the League Cup on several occasions.
However, following those considerable successes, and although everything smacks of the 'top flight', the club has seen some difficult times, culminating in the first European Cup winning side, in any country, to fall into the third tier of football.
In more recent years, the now Championship side, has come close to a return to the top flight a number of times, only to stumble at the play-off stages. Now, with fans favourite and former club captain, Stuart (Psycho) Pearce at the helm, a sense of genuine optimism exists around the club and, at the time of writing, Nottingham Forest held top spot in the Championship.
In overall charge of the City Ground pitch that, "hopefully, will grace the Premiership very soon", the training ground and academy pitches is Grounds Manager, Ewan Hunter. He takes up the story:
"I started here on the 3rd October 2005, so will have been at Forest for nine years this October.
I oversee ten grass pitches and two artificial pitches over three sites. Holme Road training ground has three pitches, the Nigel Doughty Academy (first-team training ground) has six grass pitches and two 3G artificials, and the City Ground a Fibresand reinforced pitch.
There are seven staff, including myself. Mathew Tietjen is my Deputy Head Groundsman, who has worked for the club for twelve years over two spells - the second spell started in October 2005, he came in as my deputy when the previous number 1 and 2 both left for Wembley. Craig Watson, First Assistant, has been with the club about eleven years and now oversees the day to day operations at the training ground. He is helped by Senior Groundsman, Mathew Rinkert, who has worked at the club for five years and juniors/apprentices Alex Hudson (1st year) and Bradley Christmas (2nd year). Senior Groundsman, Lee Robertson, has worked at the club for six years and helps out at all three sites, but also keeps the Holme Road training ground to a reasonable standard - this facility has become a lower priority, with its budget being dramatically reduced to help us maintain the other two sites to a high standard.
I got into the the industry from a young age after carrying out work experience at my local golf course in Thetford, Norfolk. I knew what I wanted to do when I left school. I went to Otley Horticultural College in Ipswich full time for the next two years, doing my National Diploma in Horticulture. This had a small amount of sports turf included, but not really enough to fully satisfy me at the time.
I carried out many other work experience placements at local golf courses in and around Ipswich and was offered a full-time job working at Thorpeness Golf Course when I finish my college course. This resulted in a quick return to Otley College, as Thorpeness wanted me to go on day release to gain my NVQ 2 in Sports Turf and then my level 3 afterwards.
A few job changes as I tried to chase bigger wages, and my first marriage ending, made me leave Suffolk for Northamptonshire, where I was out of the industry for a few months working in a pub. I soon realised I needed to get back to what I knew best and started working at Delapre Golf Course in Northampton, a municipal course which was not up to the standard I had been used to. I was very grateful to them for the three years I spent there though, as I was put through my spraying courses and worked my way up to becoming First Assistant Greenkeeper out of the thirteen staff they employed. But there was only so many burnt-out cars and vandalism that I could handle.
I was always moaning about my job to my friends and family. My mother-in-law spotted an advert in the local paper for a groundsman at Rushden and Diamonds FC but, at the time, I wasn't really interested as I wanted to stay in golf. But, after a second interview, I was offered the Deputy Head Groundsman position and, within three months of me taking the job, my boss, Head Groundsman Jim Buttar, told me he was leaving to join Tottenham Hotspur.
I was asked to take on the role of acting head groundsman until the club could find Jim's replacement and, to be honest, I was out of my depth.
I did not have a clue what I was doing. Luckily for me, Jim was fantastic, writing a lot of information and instructions and providing two weeks intense training as I tried to learn the job very quickly. After my first renovation, picking up many new words and techniques, like koroing, I soon learned the ropes and was highly commended at the end of my first season by the playing surfaces committee, which also secured me the head groundsman job on a full-time basis.
The next two seasons were just as successful, and I was highly commended by the playing surfaces committee again in my first full season.
Having the pitch recognised in that manner was great. I was then made aware of the Nottingham Forest job and, although I was still fairly inexperienced, having only been in football for three seasons, I applied and was appointed Head Groundsman in 2005.
The next few seasons were great, a fantastic learning curve, and we had more success when we were nominated for Pitch of the Year in our first half-season, being highly commended by the playing surfaces committee. The following season (2006/2007), we won Pitch of the Year in League 1 and again the following season.
This also lead to me being named the FA Professional Groundsman of the Year 2008. We won pitch of the year in the Championship in 2010/2011 and have also picked up a few runners-up awards for our training pitches and grounds team.
I have now been in the turf industry over twenty years; nearly thirteen in football and eight in golf, and have loved nearly every minute.
Nottingham Forest were taken over by a family from Kuwait two years ago and the club has been going through a restructuring process ever since. This has meant my role has changed as I have been asked to get involved in my department's budgets for the first time in an attempt to help the new owners with their plans. It's been an interesting time and we have seen many improvements to the training ground's pitches and facilities. We recently had two new artificial pitches installed by Smiths Construction and they are a fantastic improvement on what they replaced.
The new owner has big plans and we are all trying to get the club ready for a return to the Premier League. I am hoping we will be able to reconstruct the City Ground pitch, as it was last constructed in 1994. The pitch does have undersoil heating and a decent irrigation system, which we have added to and improved over the years, but the soil below the top four inches is the old local clay that was back-filled after the undersoil heating and drainage was put in.
The pitch, however, does do quite well given the age and quality below the surface, but the drainage system is not as effective as it once was and did cause a problem during the extremely wet winter two seasons ago.
We do have a decent surface, which has been koroed every season since I arrived at Forest, with us adding and mixing in extra fibres on three occasions. These works are carried out by our contractors, Premier Pitches.
This regular cleaning out and reseeding, along with regular in-house verti-draining and doing the usual groundsman jobs to the best of our abilities, has been very successful.
We work very closely with our suppliers, using some great products, including the new Microlite fertiliser range and some quality sprays. We have regular soil samples taken to keep an eye on nematodes and NPK and pH levels, and then take action from the results. We try not to spray too many pesticides or fungicides for many reasons; to reduce our costs, to prevent unnecessary environmental impact and also to prevent the pitch from building up resistance to the chemical, so they work for us as and when we need to spray for diseases.
In my time, our biggest and best investment into the pitch, by far, has been the recent acquisition of lighting rigs. Over the last five or six years, I have researched lights, trying rigs from the three main suppliers before we were able to invest and bring in four large rigs, two medium rigs and two goalmouth rigs from Turf Lighting Solutions based in Norway.
These rigs made a huge difference to the pitch last winter and I am looking forward to working with them again this season as, without them, the winters can be extremely disheartening as you watch your pitch deteriorate week by week. Now, at least, the groundstaff have a fighting chance of maintaining the pitch to a decent standard, whilst working with new technology gives us added interest during the winter."
Brian Clough 1935-2004
Brian Clough, Nottingham Forests' most successful manager, passed away ten years ago. He was the scourge of journalists and often regarded as the 'best manager England never had'.
The below quotes have been compiled by brianclough.com
"If God had wanted us to play football in the clouds, he'd have put grass up there." On the importance of passing to feet.
"I wouldn't say I was the best manager in the business. But I was in the top one." Looking back at his success.
"I can't even spell spaghetti never mind talk Italian. How could I tell an Italian to get the ball - he might grab mine." On the influx of foreign players.
"Rome wasn't built in a day. But I wasn't on that particular job." On getting things done.
"On occasions, I have been big headed. I think most people are when they get in the limelight. I call myself Big Head just to remind myself not to be." Old Big 'Ead explains his nickname.
"I only ever hit Roy the once. He got up so I couldn't have hit him very hard." On dealing with Roy Keane.
"Players lose you games, not tactics. There's so much crap talked about tactics by people who barely know how to win at dominoes." Reflecting on England's exit from Euro 2000.
"We talk about it for twenty minutes and then we decide I was right." On dealing with a player who disagrees.
"I'm sure the England selectors thought if they took me on and gave me the job, I'd want to run the show. They were shrewd, because that's exactly what I would have done." On not getting the England manager's job.
"If a chairman sacks the manager he initially appointed, he should go as well." On too many managers getting the boot.
"I like my women to be feminine, not sliding into tackles and covered in mud." On women's football.
"You don't want roast beef and Yorkshire every night and twice on Sunday." On too much football on television.
"I thought it was my next door neighbour, because I think she felt that, if I got something like that, I'd have to move." Guessing who nominated him for a knighthood.
"Barbara's supervising the move. She's having more extensions built than Heathrow Airport." On moving house in Derbyshire.
"That Portuguese bloke at Chelsea, Jose what's his name... He reminds me of me at the same age. But I were better-looking." A view on the 'other' special one.
"Which current manager remind me of meself? Neil Warnock - without the success." As forthright as ever!
"Our team's so young, it's like a school outing. Our problem isn't injuries - it's acne!" On Forest players' average age.
"Come and see my coaching certificates - they're called the European Cup and league championships," On the trend for micro-management.