Runners up for the IOG Award were Jonathan Calderwood of Aston Villa FC (Premier League), Andrew Tully of Newcastle United (Championship) and Andy Gray of Southampton (League One).
This is 34-year-old Simon’s third season at Burton Albion, having joined the Brewers after a spell at Derbyshire County Cricket Club. Working primarily alone on the sand-based pitch – which was installed in 2005 as part of the £7.2 million new stadium project – and surrounding lawn and bankings, Simon clearly has his work cut out in maintaining a first-class surface at the 7,000 capacity stadium.
He has to accommodate around 55 games each season including first team matches and occasional training, FIFA youth level international games, plus games for the reserves and youth teams, for example. He does, however, also have part-time help on three half-days a week from volunteer Cliff Wilson, whose main roles are marking out and divoting. The annual renovation involves contractors, and consultancy PSD is also on hand when required.
“The switch from cricket to football groundsmanship was quite a sea change,” Simon admits, “and while it is certainly tougher working on your own rather than as part of a team, it is much more rewarding. Also, having a young family, the schedule of football suits me and my family a lot better.
“The club’s strategy of open communications and willingness to allow me the ‘freedom’ to do the job – a policy which starts at the very top with the chairman - has certainly played a key role in enabling me to win this award.”
Simon will receive his Award at the IOG National Conference on November 25 at the SWALEC Stadium, Cardiff.