What does your job involve?
We’ll invariably have covers over the field because we can’t afford for water to get onto the square too close to matches. We’ll strip off all of the covering, then there’ll be work like cutting and rolling pitches – pitches are in preparation roughly for about 21 days, so we’ll have pitches in various stages of preparation. Each pitch is 10 feet wide and we’ll have 24 pitches and we’ll play on one for one or two games then we’ll move onto another one, so it’s a continual process of preparation, playing, repairing and moving onto the next one.
Is that all it takes to get the pitch ready for a game?
No: we’ll be cutting the outfield and the rest of the playing surface, and getting the periphery ready for games so that the players can see the balls. We’ve got practice facilities that we have to look after as well.
When does your working day start?
We’ll tend to work from 7am until 5pm when there’s not a match, but if we’ve got a match, like a Twenty20 which involves playing in the evenings, it can be 7am until 10pm. It’s a pretty full-on experience throughout the summer, then we tend to get a little bit of downtime in the winter.
How did you get the job?
This is my third season at Durham, having previously done two years as Deputy Head Groundsman at Trent Bridge, Nottingham and before that I was working at recreational sports grounds for 20 years or so.
What did you do before this?
I was originally a painter and decorator – I ran my own business for about 20 years – and then changed career completely, having always been a lover of cricket and involved in cricket at all levels. I’ve no formal training whatsoever in groundsmanship, it’s just been a question of learning on the job, picking things up, talking to other people and gaining experience from actually doing it.
You’re not a local boy then?
No, I’m not. I was born a few miles away from Oxford, lived there for 20 years. Then, after that with various jobs, I’ve gone from Aylesbury to Uxbridge and Nottingham, then up here. I’m gradually moving North – it could be Edinburgh next.
Any cricketing heroes?
Funnily enough, my major cricket hero was Sir Ian Botham and he’s just been made Chairman of Durham County Cricket Club. To actually be working with my hero is very interesting.
Any predictions for this season?
We’ve got a lot of challenges because we were relegated into Division Two last year – not because of playing ability, but because of financial difficulties – and we’re starting this year on minus points which is going to make it really difficult to catch up. We’ve also lost quite a few senior players so I see this season as very much a season of transition, but it opens up a number of opportunities for younger people to come into the side and to stake a claim for the future and to get a lot of experience.
Any young players we should keep an eye out for?
Keaton Jennings has just got into the England side and is doing really well, but we’ll probably only see him for about half of the season, then he’ll go and play for England. It’ll be the same with Mark Wood. But that’s what any cricket club is about: producing players for the national side and any time they go off, there’s an opportunity for someone with less experience to come into the side and perform. I would hope that, if Paul Coughlin can have a season free from injury, he’ll play a starring role at some point. Brydon Carse is doing well too. Jack Burnham has just broken a thumb in training unfortunately, but he’s showing good signs of coming through and scoring well for us.
How are you preparing to have thousands of music fans trampling all over your grass when Rod Stewart and Little Mix play at the ground this summer?
It’s not an ideal situation to have that amount of people trampling all over an international sporting facility. The fact is though that cricket is not raising enough money at the moment to sustain these facilities on its own so we have to diversify. Concerts are a pretty easy way for us to do so but obviously there are dangers there. There’s absolutely no point in getting irate about it because it’s going to happen and it’s a question of making sure we put everything in place to cope with the event. We had a concert late on in the season last year and a week after, you wouldn’t have known anything had been on here.
You’ve mentioned the difficulties Durham is going to face this season. Is there any message you’d like to send out to the people of the North East?
We’re actually holding events for all the groundsmen from local clubs to try and support them – we’re here for the local people. Anything that we can do to reach out to people is great from our point of view.
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