New pitch supremo David's ready to hit the ground running!

Interview John Edwards

THE club are delighted to welcome David Jones to The J.Davidson Stadium as our newly-appointed head groundsperson.

David has been recruited to replace Adam Lawrence, who left for a similar role at a League One club at the end of last year, and he began work at Moss Lane on Monday, with an extensive programme of improvement and renovation to the pitch already well underway.

As a sign of the thoroughness that has marked his time with other clubs and, most recently, the Welsh FA, David is well aware of the drainage-related problems we encountered last season and is well versed on the exact nature of the work currently taking place.

After examining progress to date from close quarters, he is confident Phil Parkinson and Neil Sorvel, not to mention the players, can look forward to a playing surface that will prove durable as well as suited to their preferred passing style next season.

"I felt ready for a new challenge after enjoying my time at the Welsh FA, and I'm relishing the opportunity to take this pitch forward and help prepare the best possible playing surface for Phil and the squad," he said. "I know there were difficulties with the pitch last season. I did my research on that and the work being done at the moment, and I just thought it added up to an opportunity I really wanted to take.

"The drains are actually working fine, and I don't think it was all down to that, as such. I think the problem stemmed from the top layer of the pitch. If that gets too much organic material in it, then water can't easily pass through it.

"The build-up can happen in so many ways - fertiliser breakdown, the debris you get off boots every week, dead grass, that sort of thing - and it means water takes a while to seep through to the drains.

"So we have addressed that by taking off the top 20-22ml and getting rid of all the old organic material, and everything seems to be working really well. Now, it's just a case of keeping everything clean to stop the problem occurring again.

"We need to keep the pitch as clean as possible and get a good aeration programme in place as well to allow water to keep moving freely through the top layer to ensure it keeps draining throughout the season.

"I haven't met Phil yet, because I've only just started, but I know the sort of football he favours and how important it is to have a playing surface that suits it. That's a real motivation for me to give it my best and do everything I can to deliver a pitch in top condition."

It was when David's dream of making it as a player was thwarted as a youngster at Wigan Athletic that he began to turn his sights towards tending pitches rather than starring on them.

"I played at Wigan until I was 16, but when I didn't get a scholarship there, I realised I was going to have to try my hand at something else, preferably within the game," he said. "I ended up stumbling across a part-time job at AFC Fylde. It was three days a week, and it really developed my interest in looking after pitches.

"I then had two-and-a-half years at Blackpool, much of it at their Squires Gate training ground, and that was an eye-opener, to say the least. It basically wasn't usable to begin with - no running water or toilets and, equipment-wise, there was just an old mower.

"Money has since been spent on it, and it was in far better shape when I left, but for a while, it was a challenge on a daily basis. At least it taught me to be appreciative when the facilities and equipment you need are there at your disposal.

"Those experiences at Fylde and Blackpool stood me in good stead. There were times when I would take charge if the head groundsman was away, and I've never been frightened of turning to people who've been there and done it and asking their advice. In fact, I think that's important, having a network of experienced people you can rely on, if you need any help.

"That's how you build up a thorough knowledge of all the problems you might encounter and how to solve them.

"I then had three years as head groundsman at Bootle, with their hybrid pitch, where they use proper grass but the roots are knitted round a sort of carpet. It's an interesting idea, but I'm not sure how well it will catch on. It's meant to be able to withstand the sort of usage an astro pitch gets, but I think it might struggle to do that.

"Everything at the FA of Wales was spot-on, absolutely immaculate, but I'm delighted to have been granted this opportunity at Altrincham, and I've thoroughly enjoyed meeting people and getting to know the group of willing helpers who volunteer and are going to be fantastic to have alongside me.

"Now it's full steam ahead, and we will all be doing our utmost to deliver the sort of surface Phil wants for the start of next season."

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