Grounds Manager Andy Thompson spoke exclusively to Rovers Player about the work that is currently being carried out to renovate the Keepmoat Stadium pitch.
Andy and his team have been working tirelessly to ensure that the playing surface is in the best possible shape going into the new season.
Renovation work started straight after the FA Women’s Cup Final to ensure that as much time as possible could be spent on the renovation.
“On the 26th May, after the Women’s Cup Final, we decided to renovate the pitch,” said Andy.
“We brought in machines that cultivated the surface of the pitch, taking away all of the grass, leaving only the Desso fibres. That process took between eight and ten hours to complete, after which we dressed the surface with sand, seeded it and spiked it in preparation for the new season.
“Extensive work has been done on the pitch to try and clean it out of old organic materials; we’ve used some of the best grass seed available as well as other materials. We also have a five week gap in between games, which is the most we have ever had, so we are doing everything we can to promote a decent grass sward going into the pre-season, making it as healthy as possible.
“The pitch was seeded at the end of May, and we’ve now got a tinge of green across it, and it will get its first cut on Wednesday. By that time the swards should start to thicken up. There’s still a lot of work to do but we’re hoping that come pre-season the pitch will be in the best condition possible.
“It’s critical that we do the work now to get us through the winter; this is the only time of the year that grass will grow - we need to get it as healthy as possible going into the new season.
“As a groundsman you strive to have a pitch that you have prepared looking good aesthetically, and playing right too. If we can get both those ingredients then that will be great; they are the two main aspects of the job.”
Andy went on to speak about the problems that were faced last season, and how he is planning to combat those problems this time round.
“Last season the renovation went well, with no concerns up until December. Then we got the snow in January around the Leyton Orient fixture, and it was just a steady decline after. We can do everything possible with materials and machinery but we can’t control the weather. Unfortunately the weather was the biggest cause of the pitch’s downfall last season, but, as I said, we can’t control that.
“We have learnt a lot from last season, and we will take that forward into this season. We will be using better materials this year, and are hopefully going to arrange a development plan with the FA whereby we can get some equipment off of them to utilise throughout the season.
“We’re looking at getting some better frost covers which will help keep the frost out of the ground. We’re looking at new initiatives to get us through the winter months; it’s always a learning curve, and as a groundsman you have got to learn and adapt to different situations.
“Throughout the past season a lot of people were talking about the condition of the pitch, so I had the idea to invite people down to the stadium to see the work that is being done.
“Six or seven people took up the invitation, and were given an insight into the renovation work that was being carried out, as well as being shown the different machinery and materials that we have been using.
“Those who did come down were happy that they were able to do so and see exactly what was happening. They got the answers to the questions that they had wanted to ask all season. They were overjoyed that they were able to find out what goes into a pitch renovation, which they didn’t realise before.
“It opened their eyes as to the hard work that is put in by me and my team throughout the whole twelve months of the year, and not just through the football season, which is sometimes presumed.
“Going forward, I think it is a good initiative which we can repeat more often. I’m hoping that more fans come down to have a look at the pitch and ask questions if they want to.”