Words by John Edwards
Harry Wood's sterling contribution towards keeping the pitch at The J.Davidson Stadium in tip-top condition has been recognised by the club after he was named as the latest Altrincham FC Volunteer of the Month.
The award is a fitting tribute to the countless hours Harry devotes every week to helping Adam Lawrence and Bryan Ford provide Phil Parkinson's team with a playing surface conducive to their free-flowing style of football.
In the words of Alty groundsman Adam (pictured alongside Harry on the main page), he has "done it all, from repairing drains to fixing machinery", and it is with great pleasure that the club are able to present him with his prize of a £30 voucher to be spent at Blanchflower, the renowned town centre eatery who kindly sponsor our award.
A native of Mossley, Harry moved to Hale Barns at the beginning of the 1960s and wasted no time deciding where his allegiances lay. The two Manchester giants, United and City, may have been just up the road, but it was always Alty for him.
"I have always loved the work ethic and down-to-earth honesty about non-League football, and even now, if Alty aren't playing or I can't get to their game, I'll go and watch teams like Witton, Hyde or Mossley," he said. "There's a special atmosphere, and I was hooked on Alty from the moment I attended my first game at Moss Lane in 1961.
"That was a great team to watch in the '60s. Jackie Swindells was a goal machine. He didn't exactly look an athlete, but give him the ball anywhere near goal, and it was in the back of the net.
"The John King era was special, of course. I loved Kingy and the effect he had on the opposition virtually every time we played, but Jackie was my all-time hero. You wouldn't get that now, the number of goals he scored in a single season - he never seemed to miss."
So, how did volunteering to help maintain the pitch come about, and what about Adam's reference to fixing and repairing anything that needs seeing to?
"Over the years, I've worked in the building trade, and for 40-odd years, I looked after the ground at Bowdon Vale cricket club," he said. "I enjoy that sort of work, so when I left the cricket club a couple of years ago, I decided I'd volunteer at Alty.
"It was just before Adam started, and I get a real buzz out of seeing what he does and working alongside him and Bryan. They are great guys, and it is particularly rewarding to see the fruits of our labours. The pitch is really coming on and getting better all the time, and when you see a pass rolling smoothly from one player to another, you do get a sense of satisfaction.
"There's no set timetable for me, but there are weeks when I'll clock up 20 hours or so. Last week, I did five days in a row, and it's been similar this week.
"Basically, I just pop along and get stuck into whatever needs doing. Divoting and stuff like that, but if something needs repairing, I'll have a go at that as well.
"It's not always straightforward, though. Just before the Cup tie with Oldham, I was fixing a leak in the toilets in the sponsors' lounge, but a pipe hadn't been connected properly, and I got soaked. Fortunately, my grandson, who's also called Harry, was with me and was able to hold on to it while I tightened it. All part of the job!
"There are so many willing volunteers at our club who do amazing work, and they all deserve recognition, but I am really grateful for this."
Reflecting on our Volunteer of the Month's input, Alty groundsman Adam said: "It's hard to find the words to describe Harry. He's always ready and willing to dive into anything that needs doing, just to help.
"From repairing drains to fixing machinery, he has done it all, and to do all that in a voluntary capacity is incredible. He is such an amazing person."
Well done, Harry, keep up the good work, and our thanks go again to Blanchflower Bakery & Kitchen, based alongside Altrincham market in the town centre, for their greatly appreciated support in continuing to sponsor our volunteers' award.