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GROUNDS WEEK | Head groundsperson reflects on a tough winter

23 March 2023

The annual celebration of the work of groundstaff has come at an apt time for the award-winning Dylan Thompson and his team.

Rovers’ head groundsperson is able to reflect on a positive few weeks which saw his tight-knit team ride through freezing temperatures to ensure the games against Harrogate Town and AFC Wimbledon go ahead.

That was on top of navigating the usual challenges that the winter months bring and ensuring the playing surface at the Eco-Power Stadium remains in excellent condition.

Thompson was named young groundsperson of the year in 2022 by the Grounds Management Association - who champion Grounds Week each year to celebrate their industry and encourage the next generation of talent.

And the 26-year-old admits he felt the weight of the award as he entered the most challenging months of the year.

“I’m still getting plenty of stick about it,” he said with a big grin.

“Not many people get nominated for awards so it’s something to be proud of and thankfully the pitch is performing how we expected. I was a bit nervous about that going into the winter, especially on the back of the award. But it’s nice that we come out of winter in a good position.

“The last few weeks have been a little bit difficult with the weather and we’ve not been able to do a great deal of work. But a lot of that comes down to our learning from previous postponements as a department and a club.”

There have been tricky times for Thompson and his team, with bitterly cold temperatures putting paid to a pair of fixtures. While there was little more that could be done to get the games on, lessons were provided to the groundstaff that they carried forward.

Thompson said: “We got the covers down a lot earlier than we might have done previously. For example, the covers went down on the Friday before the Harrogate game - which raised a few eyebrows at the club, but I think we were justified as the game came around. And then straight after that game the covers were down.

“I’ve had great backing from the club within that and we’ve had people from across the club helping us. The chief operating officer and a few others were dragging the covers on with us. Without staff from other departments helping, we wouldn’t have been able to get the game on.

“The same for the Wimbledon game as well - it was a little bit more touch and go. Credit must go to the secretary Adam Grice who made sure we got all the processes 100 per cent right so we got the correct decision on the game.

“It was very pleasing. It was nice to get one on in those sort of weather conditions. It’s never nice getting a game called off. It was very rewarding that it went ahead and it wouldn’t have been possible without my staff. They worked really hard through that spell - and through it we made sure the players could train as well.

“There’s four of us for the stadium and the training ground. We’re a small team but we work very well together. We all have our strengths, which is really important. There’s a great work ethic and they fit into the culture of the club.”

Thompson has been back at Rovers for a little more than a year, having spent his early days of his career at the club.

It has been a baptism of fire for the head groundsperson but one he has enjoyed immensely.

“It’s gone very quickly and it’s strange to think that I have been here more than 12 months now,” he said.

“It’s been really busy. The club has had a lot going on, which is the exact reason why I came here.

“There’s been lots of challenges - the weather, concerts, Rugby League World Cup - but we seem to have come through them all reasonably well and we’ve had good feedback this season.”

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