With the players having already departed Staplewood Campus for the summer, Southampton’s grounds staff have been hard at work during one of their busiest times.
Each summer, renovation and maintenance works are undertaken across five full-size pitches, four smaller pitches and two full-size 3G surfaces to ensure that they are in pristine condition when the players arrive back for pre-season.
It is a crucial period which also enables the team to plan well ahead for the more challenging months, as Head of Grounds Andy Gray explains.
“It’s been a very busy first week of close season, which was two weeks ago now. We renovated the five full-size grass pitches here at Staplewood within eight days.
“All the pitches are exactly the same where we stripped off the grass from the surface, top dressed the pitches with anything between 90 and 120 tonnes of sand depending on the size of the area.
“We then work that into the surface with brushes and aeration machines which poke holes into the ground, overseeding the pitches and feeding them before putting grow covers on which came off on Tuesday.
“That week is the most important week of the year for us as it sets you up for the next 12 months. The works we’ve done is all about keeping the surface clean so you don’t get algae build-up or the weed grasses coming in and overtaking the strong grass.
“It sounds far away but with what we do now we are looking towards November, December, January and February to make sure the pitches are as good as they are at the moment because that’s the most challenging time.”
ANDY GRAYI WAS REALLY PLEASED TO BE ABLE TO CARRY OUT THOSE WORKS AT AFC TOTTON. WE'RE LOOKING FORWARD TO HOW MUCH OF AN IMPROVEMENT WE CAN MAKE THERE NEXT SEASON FOR THE WOMEN'S TEAM.
HEAD OF GROUNDS
As well as work across Staplewood and St Mary’s, Gray and the grounds team have also been working hard to renovate the women’s home pitch at AFC Totton’s Testwood Stadium.
“We are lucky that the club has provided investment this summer. The women’s team played there last season and we did the same works as we would do here and at St Mary’s, but not quite to the same extent,” Gray added.
“We didn’t quite take all the grass off but the aeration works, seeding and feeding and grow covers going on was all the same. We also carried out some drainage works up there.
“The pitches here at Staplewood are different to AFC Totton’s pitch in the sense they are built out of sand over the top of a gravel raft which means they can drain all year round whatever is thrown at them, so we were able to up the drainage a little bit.
“I was really pleased to be able to carry out those works last week and we’re looking forward to how much of an improvement we can make there next season for the women's team to play on.”