I think we can all agree the last three years have certainly been very challenging - firstly coping with Covid and now feeling the effects of this severe economic crisis.
I must say my team at Man City have been fantastic and have adapted and worked tirelessly to maintain the high standards expected at the club. With Covid 19 now out the way, I feel there is optimism coming back, which was evident at November's GMA Saltex show at the NEC where there was a buzz about the place and people were keen to meet up again do business.
I am also looking forward to attending BTME this week. I think it is important we support industry shows. It’s good for networking and for catching up with fellow professionals and colleagues.
On recruitment, I like many other head turf professionals are worried about the lack of interest in many of the youngsters wanting to come and work in our grounds industry. We are currently finding it difficult to recruit people to come and work at the football club. They just do not want to work unsociable hours and they want to see a definable career path.
In my view we need to improve our pay and working conditions. We also need to implement better training provisions so that a person can develop their skills. There needs to be a structure in place so after so many years working for the company you get a pay increase. We need to look at a bonus system every year so that the worker has got something to look forward to. We have that at MCFC called a PDR bonus and it really works well for everyone - but I do appreciate not all clubs can do that. There must be an end goal for every person to work towards which hopefully will help people to join and stay in our industry.
Our sector also needs to find ways to come together to promote the values and opportunities that are available. Perhaps a national campaign every year where all the governing bodies and organisations fund a national campaign to go into schools to promote the wide range of career opportunities we have in this industry could be possible?
On the subject of machinery and equipment innovation, I believe there has been several key innovations that have helped grounds professionals become more efficient and competent in the delivery of exceptional playing surfaces. Those are:
- The Koro Field Topmaker that has transformed the way we renovate playing surfaces;
- Lighting rigs that have helped maintain grass cover through the winter months in our stadium environments and automatic irrigation systems;
- The development of our faithful Dennis mowers that now come with a plethora of cassette systems enabling us to do more essential tasks using one single power unit;
- The wider choice of punch tine aerators now available with both the vertidrain and Toro Procore now widely used in our industry;
- And finally, the covered boom sprayers that allow you to spray in more windy conditions;
As for turfcare products, Primo Maxx has been a game changer along with the development of better seed varieties and slow-release fertilisers and bio stimulants.
And without a doubt the reinforced natural grass pitches with the development of the Desso Grassmaster system and similar systems, has revolutionized our industry. Using these new technologies, along with the dedication of our groundstaff, we now can offer some of the best playing surfaces in the world.
Finally for me, some of the standout moments at MCFC during my time here have been winning the Premier League Pitch of the Year at Maine Road in the last season we played there. Also winning the IOG Groundsman of the Year in the same season was special. The ground staff had never won anything before I arrived at Maine Road.
Also memorable when working aboard was signing off a Desso Grass Master pitch of 12,000sqm in Melbourne, which was one of our sister clubs’ first Dessos to be installed in the country - costing one million pounds.
I am also very proud that I was able to oversee and help the installation of the City Football Academy that included the building 17 pitches - 14 grass and 3 full size artificial turf pitches (one indoor and 2 outdoor).
This is a legacy that I believe will ensure the development of the next generation of turf professionals to work at Manchester City FC.
Roy has been involved in the grounds management industry for over 45 years - from a local authority maintaining bowling greens, to managing thirteen club sites around the globe, and now for one of the biggest football clubs on the planet.
Roy’s first experience of working in the industry started when he was 14 years old through his father knowing the Groundsperson at the local bowling club Roy worked through the school holidays helping around the bowling green and even now still supports his local bowling club).
Roy then began a local authority apprenticeship scheme at the age of 16, attending college on day release. He worked at the local authority for 15 years before finally taking a step into professional football taking the job of head groundsperson at the training ground at Blackburn Rovers.
He left Blackburn in 2001 to take up one of the most prestigious jobs in football, becoming the head groundsman at Manchester City FC. Over the following twenty years he has been involved in the amazing transformation of one of the richest football clubs in the world who, through Roy’s vision and that of his dedicated team of turf professionals, oversaw the move from Maine Road to the Commonwealth Stadium (Etihad), including the full construction of the new stadium pitch.
Now in his final months before retiring, the portfolio of club sites around the world has increased and Roy manages 13 club sites, including training facilities, at locations including New York City, Uruguay, Melbourne, and Belgium.
Throughout his career, Roy has always embraced new techniques and sought to develop teams of highly skilled turf professionals that have won numerous awards over many years.
Being mindful of the contribution Roy has made to our industry, TurfPro has invited Roy to be one of our guest editors, to allow him to share his thoughts on our industry.