The City Head Groundsman explains the difficulties in keeping the pitches in good conditions during the winter period...
Here at PUSB matchday programme, we want you to feel closer to your team and bring you exclusive behind-the-scenes insight from Coventry City. So, throughout the season, the ‘View from Ryton’ will give you a look into the day-to-day operation at CCFC.
Today, it’s the turn (or return) of Head Groundsman Julien Morris…
Since my last View from Ryton, it has been a very challenging few months for me and my staff but highly rewarding in equal measure. In the months leading up to the winter period, we’ve had the worst weather I’ve experienced in my 8 years with the club. It feels like it has been raining since the beginning of October and in fact, that is not far from reality. I recently analysed our weather data leading up to Christmas and we had a period of 12 dry days out of 80!
The pitches at Ryton are not “constructed”. This means that they are built on natural ground and do not have a sand-based root zone like many of the pitches you will see in modern stadia, including the Ricoh. This also means that there is no drainage in the training pitches. All in all, this creates a tough environment to keep the pitches dry enough for play during periods of prolonged rainfall but that is something we have managed to achieve. So far this season, we have only lost one training session out of the 240 hours of use on the pitches since pre-season.
We have had to adapt our usual maintenance methods to minimise the compaction to the playing surface which in turn keeps the pitches as free draining as possible. Regular aeration (spiking) of the pitches has been necessary to allow water to pass freely through the soil profile and it has taken meticulous planning to organise our work in such a way that it has maximised the chances of the pitches being in a fit condition for the team to train on.
Despite us having a very good relationship with the coaching staff, there have been some strained conversations with the manager and Jamie Clapham ahead of morning training when we have had differing views on whether the pitches were fit for use, but ultimately my job and that of my staff Bradley and Neil, is to provide high quality training pitches for the players come rain or shine that is after all the purpose of a training ground.
With the ongoing support of Tony, Mark Venus and Chris Anderson, the club have recently purchased a new state of the art set of frost protection sheets to replace our old system which had been in use at Highfield Road and Villa Park before then. This has been a huge bonus to my department saving us time and labour which means we can dedicate extra effort to pitch maintenance and they also protect to lower temperatures ensuring play in periods of cold weather.
I am personally thrilled to see the progress the club is making on and off the pitch and it is great to be a part of the puzzle that is contributing to that success. Like everyone else, I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season has in store.