1 Passion versus posturing!

Our anonymous groundsman, Mr AKA Grasscutter, delights in the success of the minnows in this season's FA Cup ties

By the time you read this, the histrionics of the 4th round of the FA Cup will probably be a distant memory, but not for us lower league groundsmen.

Just as a reminder, Cambridge United held Manchester United to a draw at home, whilst Bradford disposed of the megastars of Chelsea - at Stamford Bridge.

Of course, it has happened before, and will doubtless happen again, but it does bring a smile to my face when the 'minnows' upset the big fish, for these are some of the teams I watch week in, week out. The passion they play with, the crunching tackles and the vociferous support of just a few thousand is a far cry from the silky skills and packed stadiums of the Premier League, but a nonetheless enjoyable watch. In fact, I'd say it was pure, honest football; perhaps how the game should be played.

Jose Mourinho was, apparently, magnanimous in defeat, but not so the 'mighty' Red Devils manager, Louis van Gaal, who blamed the pitch for his team's shortcomings. Yawn; same old same old ...

"Everything was against us," moaned the new Arsene. "Everything; the pitch, the referee, the fans ..."

Well, not everything, Mr van Gaal, for the money you can fork out on a new player is probably more than I will get in a lifetime of groundsmanship to look after my pitch, and then you can add a lifetime of wages! It's somewhat ironic that the Cambridge United manager is Richard 'Money'.

Down here in the real world, the majority of groundsmen have to contend with, at best, minimal budgets, ageing machinery and real grass - that's if we can maintain cover through the winter. Not for us the complexities of Desso or Fibresand; for some, sand is a luxury. A full end of season renovation is often a hard fought battle with the powers that be, whilst new equipment and lighting rigs are just a pipe dream. If the weather takes a turn for the worse, we have a real battle on our hands, with the often resulting fixture pile up putting a huge strain on our pitches and patience.

You see, we all do the best we can with the resources we have at our disposal. None of us want to present a pitch in poor condition but, until those that hold the purse strings fully understand the science involved in preparing pitches, and provide the budget accordingly, we will often be fighting a losing battle.

Frustrating? You bet, but all we can do is try and educate chairmen and managers; to get them to understand that the pitch can often be the difference between promotion and relegation.

I'm slowly winning that battle at my club and our chairman has been a bit more forthcoming, although that might be because the teams' performances this season have put a smile on his face. Of course, I reckon that's all down to the quality of our pitch.

After the Cambridge v Man Utd game, I read that their long serving groundsman, Ian Darler, had put in over £30k of his own money over the years to buy equipment. I find that gobsmacking, but not unsurprising, such is the commitment that so many of us have to our club, our pitch and our industry.

So, when the 'big fish' come calling, don't criticise our pitches as we are all doing the best we can with what we have. Passion over posturing megastars paid megabucks will occasionally win the day.

Better still, leave a wodge of unmarked notes in the groundsman's shed!

Keep the faith, and keep cutting the grass. After all, that's all we do!

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