Rejuvenated pitch for Hartlepool United
By David Markham
Hartlepool United's pitch is in tip top condition for the start of the Coca Cola League season after it was stripped and re-seeded during the summer.
Dave Brown, who has voted Second Division groundsman of the year last season after winning the Third Division award the season before said: "We started work on the pitch pretty much straight after the last match last season. "Although it was still in relatively good nick, the turf was getting overcome with poa annua, which is a a shallow rooted weed grass that divots too easily. To get rid of unwanted grass, the entire pitch needed stripping."
Sheffield based company, Premier Pitches Ltd, who have been Hartlepool's contractors for the last three years came to Victoria Park to complete this process. Dave, who has been groundsman at Hartlepool for 12 years, said: "Premier Pitches Ltd were heavily involved in the stripping and rotavating of the pitch.
After this more than 120 tonnes of fibre reinforced root zone was incorporated into the pitch before it was harrowed, stone raked and levelled. "Once this had been done, the whole process quickened up incredibly when the seeds were sown. For this phase we used the highest quality seeding product before irrigation, feeding and watering began. "Within two weeks I was able to make the first cut and since then we have constantly watered, fed and cut the pitch to make it look like it does today."
The condition of the Victoria Park pitch began to improve four years ago when the club invested in a new drainage system. "We have never looked back since we got that drainage work done," said Dave. "It used to be a mud bath and we used to get reported to the Football League for the poor condition of the pitch. "I think being near the sea helps us to combat the frost during the winter."
Dave pays tribute to the investment by clubs owners IOR - Increased Oil Recovery, who are based at Aberdeen - in the pitch and he has a wide range of machinery, including a Jacobsen triple mower, a mastiff, a Dennis cassette mower, an Iseki tractor and a Charterhouse verti-drain, which he has been using recently during the wet weather and to develop the root system."
Dave's hard work was acknowledged by numerous opposing managers and referees and they voted for him to be put forward for Second Division groundsman of the year last season. Although there was some stiff competition from Swindon and Wycombe Wanderers, Dave was voted Second Division groundsman of the year by the organisers of the competition, the Institute of Groundsmen at a ceremony at Manchester.
The judges returned to Victoria Park to take another look at the pitch on August 11 as well as viewing how Dave works within its budget before they decide who is going to be crowned the groundsman of year from all four divisions. The winner will be named on Wednesday, September 8 at an awards ceremony at Windsor. The other divisional winners were Southampton, Ipswich and Macclesfield. "Winning the divisional groundsman of the year in two consecutive seasons is a massive achievement for myself, my fellow groundstaff and the club," said Dave.
"Fingers crossed I might still be in with a chance of winning the overall title which would be absolutely fantastic.
"This, of course, has all been made possible by the constant support I have received from IOR. I would also like thank Premier Pitches Ltd for all their help and, in particular, the assistance I have received from their managing director Carl Pass."