6 The FA Groundsman of the Year Awards

fa awards 2.jpgThis year I was invited to attend the annual Football Association Groundsman of the Year Awards at Windsor Racecourse. A fitting ceremony to celebrate the hard work, dedication, resourcefulness and commitment of so many practising groundsmen representing clubs from the Premier League down to Step 7.

Mervyn Leggett from the FA's Pitches and Facilities committee was quick to pay tribute to groundsmen around the country, "The FA is very proud to host this, the eighth annual Groundsman of the Year awards, and we're delighted to see the standard of pitches and playing surfaces improving dramatically every season."

After lunch, former Liverpool and Republic of Ireland international, Mark Lawrenson, and Ray Stubbs, both current BBC Sport commentators, entertained the audience with a question and answer session about Mark's footballing career. He got some nods of approval and more than a few smiles when he said, "You knew you'd made it at a club if the groundsman invited you into his hut for a chat at training. You could read the paper and there was always a brew on the go as well, which was great on a frosty morning."

fa awards 1.jpgA 17-year playing career saw Lawrenson grace stadiums across the world, but the former Oxford United boss said that one playing surface always stood out for him: "Wembley was easily the best pitch in my days. Looking back on the old footage and you'll see me wading in mud at somewhere like the Baseball Ground, so Wembley really stood out, it was just immaculate."

"We didn't train at Anfield very often, so it was a real treat when we were allowed on there. Our training ground at Melwood was pretty good though and there was a pitch on there that was just brilliant. We nicknamed it Wembley because it was so smooth."

bucks head 09 008.jpgAfter the Q&A it was time to announce the winners, with Mark presenting a number of the trophies and certificates.

In my opinion, it is important to recognise the skills, knowledge and commitment required to produce decent playing surfaces, and the FA must be commended for their support of these awards.

I was particularly pleased to see Mick Conway, representing AFC Telford United, and one of my old work colleagues at Telford & Wrekin Council, receive the overall winner category for the Football Conference.

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Winners in full:

In recognition of 50 years service to Groundsmanship Award
Brian Addison - Squires Gate FC

Groundsman of the Year (Overall)
Dan Duffy - Swansea City

Gsaltex 2009 309.jpgroundsman of the Year - Premier League and Football League
Paul Ashcroft - Arsenal
Dan Duffy - Swansea City
Joe Aylett - MK Dons
Mike Phillips - Grimsby Town

Groundsman of the Year - Step 7 and below
Winner: Malcolm Gardner - British Airways FC
Second: Jack Prowse - Wendron Utd
Third: Stan Reed - Coxhoe Athletic
Highly Commended: Jim Fergusson, Peter Conroy, Colin Burchett
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Groundsman of the Year - Step 5 and 6
Winner: Brian Foley - Cogenhoe Utd
Second: Shaun Pugh - Burnham Ramblers
Third: Steve Honey - Staines Lammas
Highly Commended: Dave Rhodes, Craig Nicholls, Graham O'Brien

Groundsman of the Year - Isthmian League
Winner: Richard Peters - Dover Athletic
Second: Graham Gould - Staines Town
Third: Daniel Hunter - Boreham Wood
High Commended: David Bidwell, Dave Blaszkowskisaltex 2009 312.jpg

Groundsman of the Year - Northern Premier League
Winner: Elfed Morris - Colwyn Bay
Second: Philip Varney - Belper Town
Third: Mark Freeman - Loughborough Dynamo
Highly Commended: Graham Foxall, Stuart Turner

Groundsman of the Year - Southern League
Winner: Idris Elms - Leamington
Second: Rob Bullock - Chippenham Town
Third: Paul Willis - Truro City
Highly Commended: Michael Cox, Phil Williams
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Groundsman of the Year - Step 3 and 4
Winner: Idris Elms - Leamington
Second: Elfed Morris - Colwyn Bay
Third: Philip Varney - Belper Town

Groundsman of the Year - Football Conference
Winner: Mick Conway - AFC Telford United
Second: Fleur Robinson - Burton Albion
Third: James Skachill - Hyde Utd
Highly Commended: Bob Mills

THE FA.com

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