Friday marked the final day of my expedition in the United Kingdom. COLD was the theme of the day. With temperatures not rising above 45 degrees F, a breeze, and some rain showers- Wow. What a challenge to grow grass! Kudos to ALL the groundsman in northern Europe… I have heard that its cold in those areas, and that is true!
The day started with a stop at historic Old Trafford. Do I really need to say more? It is absolutely everything that is hyped- What a gorgeous and classic stadium. Thank you to Tony Sinclair, Head Groundsman at Old Trafford, for showing me around and sharing some absolutely fantastic ideas and thoughts on the success of maintaining such a wonderful pitch in the cold, wet conditions of the Manchester region. Tony’s professionalism and fantastic attitude towards the challenges they face were extra motivating to me as we look at tackling the challenges daily faced with 22 pitches and all the events at SoccerPlex. The very best of luck to Mr. Sinclair and his tremendous staff with those upcoming challenges- including several matches for the Olympics.
Leaving Old Trafford, we headed over to Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City. With both teams tied for the Premier League title going into the final weekend, it was absolutely amazing the experience the intensity and anxiety and the anticipation in the air around both clubs. What a wonderful situation for Manchester as a city, no matter what side you are on- The world is talking about Manchester through Sunday!
The Head Groundsman for Etihad Stadium, Mr. Lee Jackson, took time to visit with us and show me around even with preparation ongoing for their final Premier League match on Sunday. Thank You to Mr. Jackson for doing that- I would like to think that I would do the same for a total stranger from out of the country if they came to visit me even during preparation for one of the biggest events of a lifetime. Mr. Jackson’s pitch is suburb… I am amazed how successful its possible to be with growing grass through the dead of winter and into miserable weather conditions like they are experiencing in Manchester this spring. There is so much to learn from these places that I have not even begun to comprehend it.
Manchester United’s Carrington Training Ground was the next stop of the day. In what was one of the few disappointments of the trip, Head Groundsman Joe Pemberton was unavailable. So sorry to have miss you Joe! But Mr. David Lindop was very generous with his time to welcome us and show me around. The training ground buildings are going through renovations and upgrades, as were many of the pitches. “Busy” is only half a strong enough word to describe how things are around the training ground. So Thank You David for still allowing me to spend some time with you and pick up many valuable lessons. Our conversations and seeing another piece of the renovation process was so helpful!
In route to the airport, our final stop in the Manchester area was at Salford City Stadium, a new rugby stadium. Mr. Danny Huffman, Head Groundsman, was in preparation for rugby events this weekend. With the stadium opening in the early winter, the pitch has been played on frequently during its few months. Mr. Huffman has succeeded to maintain a fantastic surface all the while establishing the young field even more. The pitch has Fibre Sand, so the opportunity to talk about the technology and get feedback surrounding the reinforcement was very, very helpful. Thank you for the time Danny- it was extremely rewarding for me!
Friday evening lead to the departure of Manchester with a flight down to Madrid, Spain. WOW it is HOT! Unseasonably warm weather is blessing Madrid and our trip… what a change from Manchester!
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to Mr. Simon Gumbrill of Campey Turf Care for the hospitality, the guidance, and the wonderful feedback and wide range of ideas and discussions over the period of Tuesday morning until Friday evening. Traveling through 5 countries and several hundred miles, I am sure there are points he wanted to pull the car over or hit the eject button with all of the questions I was asking. Thank you again Simon- And Thank You to Mr. Richard Campey and the entire staff of Campey Turf Care for the respect, the time, the ideas, and the support. Absolutely a class act of an organization!