0 One man went to mow, went to mow at Deepdale

Untitled1For two decades Brian Ellis covered Preston North End from on high in the pressbox. Today he gets down to grassroots to kick off a weekly series as Evening Post journalists try a day in the job of their dreams.

It had been a secret love affair for nigh on 20 years.

But, after gazing longingly at her from afar, there was always the danger she wouldn't live up to expectations once we finally got up close and personal.

I needn't have worried.

The grand old lady was even more clipped and cultivated than I hoped she would be.

Football's oldest professional pitch looked simply stunning as the greenest of greenkeepers gingerly set foot on Deepdale to live the dream as a groundsman for the day.

First words are always the hardest. "Wow" wasn't the one I expected to come tumbling out. Certainly not from a man who has twice trod the hallowed turf of Wembley.

But this manicured lawn really was that impressive. Surprising, then, that shortly after my one-day apprenticeship they dug her up!

"We like to do that every summer if we can," said pitch guru Pete Ashworth, well-deserved winner of the League One Groundsman of the Year trophy for the season just gone.

"It might look wonderful right now. But organic matter gets in there if you don't and that can have an effect next season.

"So we whip the top centimetre off, put fibre sand down and re-seed it. In perfect conditions the seed germinates in five days and we can be doing our first cut in 12 days."

My shift was on matchday - play-off semi-final matchday, no less.

I joined Pete and his team at breakfast-time to get Deepdale ready for a 5.15pm TV kick-off.

The fact that the game was being beamed live to umpteen different countries cranked up the pressure another notch.

The bacon and sausage barms had to wait, there were 8,470 square yards of turf to be trimmed, almost 700 yards of white lines to be painted and two sets of goalposts, with onion bags attached, to be put in place.

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