LIFE’S a beach for most footballers at this time of the year as they kick back after a long, hard season – albeit a rewarding one for Burnley. But for some of the staff left behind, life’s a pitch.
The fruits of the squad’s labours are over for another campaign, but for the groundsmen in particular they are only just beginning.
Burnley’s head groundsman, Paul Bradshaw, took time out of his busy schedule this week to talk me through the graft that goes on behind the scenes while a ball is not being kicked. The seeding, the sanding, the nurturing, the mowing.
Hours are spent getting the Turf Moor surface up to scratch, and with each home game due to be beamed to a global television audience of millions next season now Burnley are back in the Premier League the attention to detail has stepped up a gear.
Paul’s task has got, arguably, easier since the installation of the Desso Grassmaster pitch in 2010, at a cost of £750,000.
Although it still requires plenty of maintenance, there are no longer sleepless nights if bad weather is forecast on the eve of the game.
It drains well, it plays well – allowing for a more free-flowing style.
And while it may have come at the expense of a signing – as is likely when Steve Cotterill requested a replica Turf Moor pitch at Gawthorpe in 2007 – a short-term sacrifice has had long-term gains.
Some bemoaned the football that was played under Cotterill. But they would not have taken into account the conditions the players trained in, often ankle deep in mud. Hardly conducive to a crisp, neat, passing style.
Cotterill ordered the change at the training ground, leaving a legacy for future managers and players to reap the benefits.
It is a surface they now want to be mirrored in other parts of Gawthorpe to make that space more useable and less prone to waterlogging.
It will be hard work now, and it won’t come cheap, but it will be worth it in years to come. Just like the Desso.
Turf Moor was not blessed with it last time in the Premier League. Now such surfaces are common place at the top level and, in theory – being accustomed to it at home, that will be an advantage to the Clarets. Of course there other factors to contend with when competing at English football’s top table.
But at least they’ll be doing it on a level playing field.