Sometimes, these days, when someone makes the comment that a pitch ‘looks like a carpet’ it might because it is actually a carpet, or at least the nearest thing that you can get to one in artificial grass. But real grass pitches still predominate, and they take an awful lot of looking after. In consequence, every year the FA give an award to the Isthmian Groundsman who they believe has been the leader in their art, and this year that award has gone to Andy Ward at Wingate & Finchley FC.
Andy is, as you can imagine, delighted- although also rather modest.
“I inherited a good pitch, with very good drainage, so my job has just been to maintain it at a high standard- and I get a great deal of help from the management team. Keith (Rowland) and Ritchie (Graham) are very respectful of the surface and of my decision making, and that makes my work so much easier- if I ask them to use it sparingly on occasions, or to look after certain areas, they are always willing to listen. They understand that I’m not trying to prioritise the pitch over the needs of the team, and we have a fantastic relationship.
I feel that I’ve been very lucky. I’m 24 years old and have just started my fifth season as groundsman- how many twenty-year olds get the chance to take on that kind of responsibility? For Aron (Chairman Aron Sharpe) to entrust the pitch to an unknown showed enormous faith in me, and I’m conscious that I have to repay that faith. But as with all groundsmen at this level, and indeed most of the people in Non League, I don’t do the job for financial rewards but for love. I played for the club as a youngster, I love the place, the ground- it’s my passion.”
The FA set up these awards eleven years ago to recognise the unsung heroes who spend so much of their time, rain or shine (mainly rain) ensuring that our players have a safe, high quality surface to play on. Two more of our clubs were highly commended- Greenwich Borough and South Park- and perhaps one of them might win it next year?
Groundsman of the Year: England v Slovenia programme article
Congratulations to Andy, who had his award presented to him at St George’s Park, home to all of the England National Teams. He was also mentioned in the England v Slovenia match programme from last week, as you can see from the image above.