A day in the life of Matthew Tricket
Despite 18 years in a desk job as an assistant buyer for DIY superstore B&Q, Matthew Tricket had spent his early years – from aged five until he left school – helping out on his grandfather’s farm
Hoping for a career in agriculture, he left school to complete a YTS in agriculture but, at £25 per week and with the growing discontentment within the farming community about the then newly introduced milk quotas, he soon realised that the industry wasn’t going to offer him any real prospects. So, in 1991 when he moved to Hambledon, the original home of cricket, he continued his job with B&Q which he began in 1987 and where he remained for the next 18 years. But with a passion for cricket and a love of the land it wasn’t long before he had befriended the groundsman, Topsy Turner, at the local club and offered to help out. After three weeks he had his own set of keys and ended up working there on a part-time volunteer basis for nine years.
In 1996, the opportunity arose to work as a Steward at Southampton FC where Matthew met David Roberts, then Head Groundsman. He went on to join the divoting team on match days and got his first taste of professional football. “I really enjoyed it, it was great fun and David has been a fantastic mentor to me over the years,” comments Matthew.
In 2005, redundancy from B&Q provided Matthew with the opportunity to make his hobby a full time job. “A job came up at Southampton FC, which I applied for, but it was offered to someone with more qualifications. I was disappointed but it spurred me on to get a sportsturf qualification,” he recalls.
“Around the same time I was offered the position of Groundsman for Fair Oak & Horton Heath Parish Council. It was a real challenge, with a remit for sports pitches, play areas, cemeteries, general park land, a conservation area and 35 acres of agricultural land which is in the process of being developed into a country park, but it was one I was ready for.
“The Clerk of the Council, Cheryl Gosling, my colleagues Colin Burchett, Linda Greenslade and Barry Hansell, and the councillors were really supportive and agreed to support me in studying for my NVQ L2 in Sports Turf and Amenity Horticulture with Sparsholt College on block release. I started the course in September 2006 and finished in 2007, and was awarded Student of the Year. Having been out of formal education for some years I was more than surprised! But I got a lot from it and found the mix of theory and practice of real value. My lecturers, Frank Bull, Kelvin Mason and Tim Pondsford as well as the support I received from Sally Bucknole really brought the subject to life and made the whole process worthwhile. Last year I achieved my Level 3 - this year I’m having a year off!”
Matthew’s biggest challenge to date has been overcoming the continual flooding on the football pitches. Prior to him joining there were few matches played between November and January due to the poor drainage of the heavy clay pitches. In 2007, the council agreed to invest in a new drainage system and work began in September of that year. “Although I knew it wouldn’t be a miracle cure, and that this was just the first phase of overcoming the problem, I knew it would help. A trench was laid to a depth of 600 mm and a 80 mm pipe was laid into the ground and connected to the original 150 mm outlet pipe. The trench was back filled to within 100 mm of the surface with 10 mm washed gravel, 100 mm of rootzone and Rye grass was sown along the trench lines.”
Further improvements were made to the drainage with the introduction of sand banding, as Matthew explains: “Sand banding on a regular basis is essential if things are to improve over time. It relieves the compaction that has developed over the last 15 years as well as draining the surface all in one pass.”
Recently promoted to Senior Groundsman, Mathew is confident that things are moving in the right direction, “We don’t get to play every game, every week but we are now certainly playing games throughout December, which I think the clubs are happy with.
“Understanding about pitch maintenance is limited beyond groundsmen - managers and players often don’t understand the wider issues that can prevent play, and that can be frustrating. Here, I have proactively developed good relationships with the teams and they appreciate the improved playing surfaces they now have.
“There is a lot of talk from the governing bodies and such like that they want to improve pitches and increase play but sometimes I feel they are just paying lip service to groundsmen. I attended a Hampshire FA ‘Have Your Say’ strategy meeting last year. I was only there by default and in fact was the only groundsman in attendance - the rest were coaches, referees and other support staff for sport. Pitches got a bad press that day and I was the only one there to represent the issues facing the grounds industry.”
We visit each site and remove rubbish and fly tipping, check for graffiti and check all fences. This takes 2-3 hours depending on the state of the facilities.
We visit the cemeteries as required for leaf blowing and general tidying up; in February and August we cut the hedges.
In winter we go on to the sports pitches and do the divotting and repairs and at the beginning of the week put the goal caps back on. If there has been a lot of play and they are in a particularly bad way, this can take all day.
On Thursdays we find out the weekend fixtures for the teams from Fair Oak, Eastleigh Town, Wyvern, Hedge End Tigers and Bishop Stoke so we mark out and put the notices in the changing rooms about who’s playing on what pitch. By Friday lunchtime we make a call as to whether or not the game will go ahead since this could save the referee a wasted journey.
In the summer we cut the cricket outfield on Wednesdays and Fridays. On Wednesdays we scarify (from March onwards) and dragmat (from May) then cut to 15-20 mm. On Fridays throughout August we cut the outfield. The square is maintained by the Fair Oak cricket club who play in the Southern Electric Premier League Division 3 and has ECB ClubMark accreditation.