Academics at Liverpool academy
The new academy started construction five years ago but will have been open for four years next month. I have been here since it opened, after leaving St Helen's rugby club to come here and take on the Head Groundsman role.
Liverpool Football Club try and recruit the best staff and have established close links with the local college for education and training. The club provide lads who are doing their NVQ's, work placement to come and work for a certain amount of time and at the same time I do their assessments.
Two of the lads, Kevin Dunn from St Edwards College and Warren Scott were both trained to NVQ'S level 3 with the club.
I have five staff here now including myself. When I first came there were only two of us for the first six months. We soon realised that there was far too much work and we took on another two personnel. Now we're five strong and we are able to keep more on top of all the work that needs doing.
This is an academy venue so we have games and training seven days a week. The two professional youth teams will train during the week and play either at home or away on Saturdays. In the evenings the under 9's to the under 16's will train, under the floodlights in the winter. These teams play their matches here on Sunday mornings, so we end up with at least two and as many as seven matches
Once the season starts, it seems like a merry-go-round of 'knocking back' and preparing for the next training session or game. We work on a rota system, so whoever works a day at the weekend gets the following Thursday off in lieu. Once the pitches are repaired we will then mow them with one of our ride on
Our renovations this year included stripping off the turf on four pitches and fraize mowing the goal keeping areas on the other pitches and the whole of pitch 2.
We are implementing a rolling program, so next year we will fraize mow four more pitches.
We are in a very open aspect and the pitches had become colonised heavily with Poa annua. The pitches for the older lads were stripped off with a Koro, working to a depth of 50mm, there was a tremendous amount of spoil as you can imagine, but we have managed to keep it on site, so that it can be re-used in the future if necessary. This enabled us to keep costs down, not having to transport 'muck-away'.
We may leave the match pitch at the front for a further season depending on our management and control of the Poa annua. We have to be careful on some of our pitches, because they have slit drainage and therefore we are to be mindful of what operations we undertake.
Dependent on weather and games, we aim to verticut all the pitches every four weeks, we are probably brushing weekly now with the Wessex. We have a vertidrain as well and we are spiking bi-monthly to keep the surface open.
The synthetic pitches are rubber crumb filled and require regular brushing and maintenance to keep them in shape. The surfaces are regularly used; particularly in the winter, and because of their construction means that the players can wear studded boots. The outdoor synthetic is a full sized construction, so eleven a side training games can take place when the ground is frozen. The only problem with it is if there is moisture in the rubber crumb then this has a habit of freezing too, making the surface a little precarious sometimes, though it will still take a stud.
One of the most important points is that I have built up a great relationship with the playing and coaching staff; they trust our knowledge and experience and will use the areas that I designate for them daily.