The new soccer season starts again in mid-August after a 10-week break. The groundsmen have prepped the fields, reseeded and grown their new baby in. It all sounds so simple, but Mother Nature or “Sod’s Law” has often stepped in to pull the rug from under the groundsmen’s feet.

I have heard of many instances of problems encountered, but my favorite incident to date has to be Steve Kiddy, head groundsman of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, U.K.

Back in June 2007, Kiddy’s end-of-season renovation/preparation had gone well and the surface was growing in beautifully, the first few cuts were done and the field was nearly ready for the new season. All was going well, but then Kiddy and his Hillsborough field made the news in the U.K., as many parts of the city of Sheffield suffered from severe flooding and the stadium field was up to 16 feet under water.

As the water subsided, the litter and debris that was left behind was the minor issue. It was the silt, muck and other items left behind that caused issues. Premier Pitches, a sports turf renovation contractor from Sheffield, did the cleanup, but the oils left on the surface had contaminated the upper rootzone. An inch had to be removed from the field, and it was only four weeks until the start of the new season. There wasn’t enough time for another grow-in. The only choice was to sod the field.

The sodded field survived the winter, but cost the club financially and on the standard of the playing surface that season, so much so that a professional football game had to be canceled. Kiddy had never had a game canceled in the past and has not had one since.

This photograph of Kiddy continues to make me smile all these years later, as he looks like a boy who lost his best toy!

Jonathan Calderwood is now head groundsman at Paris St. Germain Football Club in France. He was at Aston Villa Football Club in England for the last 13 years, but the offer of the position in Paris was attractive and provides the challenge he had been looking for.

The expectations on him are high and possibly not achievable with one of the national French newspapers describing him as the “King of Gardens.” It’s flattering to make the press, but as is normal in our industry, bringing us down to the lowest common denominator.

Calderwood has a short period to improve the stadium field before the season starts, so I gave him a hand removing the Poa annua colonies in an attempt to tease out the Poa and other weak grasses, approximately 25 percent of the surface, leaving the dominant rye and bluegrass.

The field was then decompacted and sand was spread over the surface before overseeding – ready for play in three weeks and hopefully strong enough for his season.

The Wimbledon Tournament has taken place with a little bit of criticism toward the courts. Now, soapbox time for me!

Rules for sport:

  • Stay humble in defeat.
  • Don’t complain about the surface being slippery if your opponent has not found it to be. Perhaps look at your designer footwear and check that the soles are suitable for the surface.
  • At the end of the tournament try to be the winner, because it will mean you were probably the best and you played well.

The above rules maybe a little too simple for some sportsmen and women, but possibly beyond the logic of quite a few.

I believe the majority of sportsmen and women do not have a clue about the level of knowledge and dedication that goes into the preparation of the surfaces they play on. We combine nature and science, and we have a huge unseen industry behind us, but we all have to get better every day because the expectations and demands on us are always increasing.

Simon Gumbrill is sales director at Campey Turf Care Systems, U.K.