In March 2020, after 20-years of vying for control of their main Smiths Field site from Trafford Council, Unicorn Athletic JFC has begun life in charge with equipment from Campey Turf Care Systems.
The club is home to 34 teams and operates at different schools and pitches in the local area, with their main site used by the under-8's Saturday club, youth teams from 14 years old and upwards and their open age group teams.
The New Holland Boomer 35, Trimax 190 Striker and SISIS Quadraplay will be vital for the community club as they aim to improve the condition of their site. The story of their pitches over two decades is a sadly familiar one, with budgets cuts in the council leading to less and less maintenance and inconsistent mowing.
For Darren Storey, treasurer, part-time groundsman and operator of the walking football team, finally taking control of the maintenance will allow the club to give children playing in their teams the pitches they deserve.
"It was unbelievable to use the new stuff. To be honest, I felt like I was ten. It was like being a kid in a candy shop," Darren began. "The whole field was cut in an hour, and it looks the part because it's been done with proper grounds maintenance machinery, and it looks exactly as our kids deserve."
"In the past when the council hasn't cut the grass, we've begged, stole and borrowed petrol mowers and cut it by hand with a team of volunteers but those days have long gone hopefully."
"We started the process by speaking to one of the subcontractors that works for Trafford Council, Paul Grange, who has worked on our pitches and helped us with stuff in the past. Over the years the pitches have been in shocking condition because Trafford had no money, So, we used to pay extra money out of our own funds to get them upgraded."
"Campey has been ace. From costing, to specifications and the equipment that we needed, and more importantly could afford, they've been great. They kept us updated at each stage, and we asked for upgrades like a tracker on the tractor, and although they don't normally do it, they sorted it. We put a grant application into the Football Foundation which they helped us with, and without that, we wouldn't have the equipment, so John Campey and his team have been very good."
With the first cut of many completed on the day of delivery and installation in late July 2020, Darren and the club are already looking at ways they can improve the wider area. Because it is a community field, they want to make it better for everyone, not just the players, and a part of this plan is creating a Friends of Smiths Field group. By doing this they hope to raise funds that will allow them to improve the landscaping, put in nature and fitness trails and complete other projects to make it a more usable area for the wider community.