Rangers FC's £14 million, 38 acre state-of-the-art training centre at Murray Park in Milngavie, near Glasgow, includes two full-size and one half-size Fibresand pitches, four full-size sand profile pitches, one full-size and one half-size synthetic pitches and a practice area.
The pitches are used by everyone from the first team and reserves to the youth side, ladies and under-9 teams, as well as schools during the holidays. It's therefore very much a balancing act for head groundsman David Roxburgh and his team to get the necessary grounds maintenance work done in the time available, and the machinery they use has to be right for the jobs that need doing.
The latest additions to the club's John Deere fleet, supplied by Glasgow-based dealer Nairn Brown Ltd on contract hire for use at the training grounds, include three 2653B triplex utility mowers, two 4520 compact tractors and a 3720 compact with front loader.
"At the training venue, the maintenance regime is different to the stadium at Ibrox, and more difficult to manage, because of the very intensive use," says David Roxburgh, who is assisted at Murray Park and at the main stadium at Ibrox by deputy head groundsman Alan Carlin, alongside another seven grounds staff (of which two work at Ibrox). "With the mowers, we try to cut the grass training pitches every day, just aiming to top them off each time, and not have to cut long grass.
"Our previous John Deere 500 mowers were doing a decent job, and had taken the condition of the training pitches up to a new level. As we've developed a better understanding of the products we use and the pitch conditions required, we needed to invest in newer machines to help increase the overall quality level.
"With an extra blade producing more cuts per square metre, these latest mowers do a much better job and give a better quality of cut - you have to change with the times, and we needed to get the cut ratio up. Of course you can easily improve the quality by using walk-behinds, but with the number of grass pitches we have to look after, time is a big factor."
Aside from the mowers, the new John Deere 20 Series compact tractors are used for aeration and with various other implements around the training grounds. "The tractors' eHydro transmission with automatic cruise control and throttle is brilliant, especially when you're spraying or Verti-Draining, travelling between sites and turning at the end of a run," says David Roxburgh.
"You just pre-set the different speeds you want to use and away you go - you don't have to use the same operating speed the whole time. We've definitely seen a reduction in diesel use, too.
"At the end of the day the machines have to be right for me and my staff, and for the club. They are working all day every day, so we need to be confident that they can cope and are matched up to the jobs.
"Having said that, it's not just about the kit we buy - a good relationship with your supplier and dealer is also very important. I've been to the John Deere factory, seen the machines built and talked to the designers. What I particularly like and appreciate is that Nairn Brown know their equipment - they're always ready to come and advise us on the right choice of machine for our individual jobs."