Video: Staplewood pitches being transformed

By SFC Media Sun 27 May Club

The players may have departed Staplewood Campus for the summer, but that only means the work at Southampton's training ground gets even more intense for one set of staff.

Once again, Grounds Manager Andy Gray and his team have been hard at it, renovating the various pitches in preparation for the start of pre-season training next month.

Giving an insight into the latest "race against time", Gray explained: "This year has been a bit of a mixture of the normal, end-of-season renovation works, plus the reconstruction of a couple of pitches.

"End-of-season normal works is stripping all the grass off every pitch, top-dressing with up to 90 tonnes of sand, aerating the pitch, working that sand into those holes and then over-seeding, feeding the pitch and then finally putting some grow covers on.

it's always intense. it's very busy. the work all the guys on the team do is invaluable.

andy gray
grounds manager

"They stay on the pitch for two weeks and when we take them off the grass is a good inch long. It's very weak obviously at that point, very young, but the pitch becomes green again. From that point on, it's a case of cutting it, feeding it and establishing it, ready for the players' return.

"The biggest difference this summer has been the reconstruction of two pitches – one being Pitch One (the main first-team training pitch) and the other being Pitch Four, which is the flood-lit match pitch for the Under-23s and Under-18s. We're upgrading those to hybrid pitches, which we have never had at the football club before, either at the stadium or Staplewood."

Gray explained the benefits of the hybrid pitches for the players.

"You get a much more consistent surface across the pitch, from one end to the other, and also consistency throughout the season," he said. "So, whether August, January, or May, it should be the same all the way through the season.

Pitch One as it currently looks!

"So, each and every time a player steps on one of those pitches they know what to expect, which hasn't always been the case with the current pitches that we've had."

Reflecting on the work that is going in, Gray said: "It's always intense, it's very busy, but we schedule it right from before the end of last season to before the start of next season to make sure all the work's done.

"The hours worked in that renovation period is often 12-hour days, seven days a week. All the lads on this team – there's ten guys who work here looking after these pitches and the surrounds – the work they do is invaluable."

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