"Communication breakdown, it's always the same
Having a nervous breakdown, drive me insane"
Those of you with a fine taste in music, and an age closer to retirement than you care to admit, will instantly recognise those lyrics above as being by English rock band Led Zeppelin, from their 1969 debut album Led Zeppelin. I sometimes wonder if the club I work for should adopt this tune as the company anthem.
I read with envy in a recent publication (it was not Pitchcare!) how the head groundsman at a Premier League club gets regular emails from the football manager and coaches outlining where and when training will take place.
Having said that, our little bolt hole cum storage area under the stand does not have a computer or a phone line, so emails could be a problem. But, I do own a mobile phone that will handle emails, so perhaps there is no excuse.
The lack of communication within the club does throw up some humorous situations though.
One August, a few years ago, our youth team were due to play away to their counterparts from another League club. This particular club were experiencing financial difficulties at the time and asked for the fixture to be switched as they could not afford to rent a pitch for the game. We duly obliged, but the regular venue for the youth team to play had not yet marked out their football pitches.
So, the head of youth asked the football manager if the game could be played on the 1st team training pitch at the stadium. He agreed, but no one thought to inform the groundstaff of this fixture.
Two days before the game was due to be played, during a casual conversation with the youth team physio, and knowing of the lack of communication within the club, he asked if we, the groundstaff, knew of the game? He was not surprised when we said no. We asked him not to say he had told us.
On the morning of the game we made sure the pitch to be used was all marked out and cut ready, and sat back and waited for things to develop.
Whilst sat having a coffee in a stand in the stadium, about ninety minutes before kick off, three men walked out of the tunnel and started walking around the pitch. We asked if we could help, and they explained they were the match officials. "Match officials for what?" we asked. "The youth game," they said. "What youth game?" we enquired, admittedly somewhat tongue in cheek!
The referee then went to see our club secretary, who came rushing out asking if we could put on a game on the training pitch. We made a few huffing and puffing noises and said we would "see what we can do."
The secretary blamed the head of youth for not telling us of the game, he blamed the secretary, and we became heroes for a few hours for magically getting a pitch ready in thirty minutes.
Later that season, the very same training pitch used that day for the youth team game was looking a little worse for wear and, as the winter was turning to spring, we saw an opportunity to give it a good sanding and an earthquake.
The first team had a Tuesday night away fixture, which meant no training on the Tuesday and Wednesday. We arranged for a local contractor to earthquake the pitch and we would follow up with about forty tonnes of sand.
All was going to plan on the Tuesday, albeit in rather rainy conditions. The earthquaking was completed and most of the sand spread. We finished the sand spreading on the Wednesday and, admittedly, the pitch did look like a bit like a beach, but with a bit of dry weather and a brush and roll it would be fine.
The first team had taken a bit of a hammering on the Tuesday night and, when the manager arrived for training at the stadium on Thursday morning, the red mist descended when he saw the training pitch covered in sand.
He burst into our room as we sipped our coffees before starting work, gave us a right bollocking and said that training would have to be done on the stadium pitch as Sky Sports were coming to film Soccer AMs Crossbar Challenge and we had ruined the training pitch, which could not be seen on TV as it would be an embarrassment to the club. "You should have known better as you knew the cameras were down here this week," came his final rant. We countered by saying we knew nothing of Sky Sports visit (which we didn't), and we had done what we had done for the long term condition of the training pitch.
We stood and watched the Crossbar Challenge later that day (from the corner of the pitch) along with an out of favour player whom the manager didn't rate. He had told Sky that he was injured and could not take part.
That player went on to play at a club a league higher, helping them make the playoffs, whilst the manager was last seen doing 'expert' analysis on local radio and, two weeks after what became known as Black Thursday in our room, the training pitch was a perfect flat, dry, grassy surface for the lads to train on.
Thanks from the manager and coaching staff were not forthcoming!
Keep the faith and keep cutting the grass, after all that's all you do!