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Grounds for optimism - part one

Posted on 3 May 2002  - 12:00

Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) Football Club is located in North London. The club is also known as Spurs. Tottenham's home ground is White Hart Lane. The club motto is Audere est Facere (To dare is to do).

The playing surface at White Hart Lane is to be transformed during the summer months using the very latest in modern pitch technology.

It has been a difficult season, pitch-wise, as Glenn's preference for a passing game has been hampered by a surface thats condition deteriorated as the campaign progressed.

Such problems should not arise again in the foreseeable future as the playing area is being ripped up following the final home game of the season against Liverpool and the Desso Grassmaster will soon come into play.

A pitch using similar technology was laid at Liverpool during the last close-season and our Grounds Manager Darren Baldwin believes the Anfield surface has been the best in the country this season.

We are now seeking the same consistency for White Hart Lane, employing the latest in drainage techniques and plastic strands will be woven into the turf to provide a flat, durable playing area that can only assist Glenn with the style of football he wishes to produce.

Darren takes us through the sequence of events of what will be a busy summer for himself and his team.

"We're ripping out 200mm in depth of the existing pitch that will expose all the drainage channels, which will be disposed of," reports Darren, who joined the club in 1996.

"What we'll do then is bring in a new drainage route zone, which is 95 per cent sand and five per cent soil. That will come and be lazer levelled with state-of-the-art machinery. The pitch is then re-seeded.

"The timescale is such that we'll start ripping the pitch out on April 29 and it'll take two weeks to remove and another two weeks for the new route zone to be firmed in, established and re-seeded - so it will be around about the end of May.

"You've then got what you call a 'grow in period' of five or six weeks for the pitch to get strong enough before the Desso machines come in to install the Desso Grassmaster - which is the plastic getting woven into the pitch.

"It is like a giant carpet-making machine, which is where the idea came from. Every 20mm square, so you've got 200-odd needles at 20mm intervals.

"The Polypropylene, the twine, gets punched in at a 200mm depth and is cut 25mm above the surface. That happens every 20mm across and then the machine moves forward another 20 and the same process happens again.

"What happens is, once this has all gone in, it looks quite a mess and may even look untidy for the first game - depending on the weather, timing and how quickly we can get this done.

"Once this has gone in the roots of the grass wrap round the plastic and ties it up to become solid - it is then nie on impossible to take a divot out.

"What is will give us next season, as far as the pitch goes, is a flat, firm surface. However, it won't help us keep grass in the southern area of the ground where the shade is bad. It will give us a level flat surface.

"The south side only gets one week of priority sunlight a year - and that's a few days either side of June 21! There is a lot of research going on into stadium lighting and, believe it or not, mirrors is still an option.

"Liverpool have got one of these pitches and so have West Ham United - these are two of the most successful pitches of this type.

"That is the gist of the pitch as far as construction goes and what it's going to be."

Darren explains that the drainage channels nearer to the surface will not be needed as the ones lower down that house the undersoil heating will be exposed and the sand and plastic introduced with the new pitch assist in drainage.

"At the moment you've got 200mm of pitch that is going to come out. Around 100mm below that is the undersoil heating pipes that are all in drainage channels. What's going to happen is that we're going to expose these drainage channels, but the care is in not damaging the heating pipes.

"The new route zone will go on top and is very porous, it will drain at about 200ml per hour. We don't need the channels as high as they are at the moment, they are within 100mm of the surface.

"Each of the plastic strands will help perculate through to the drainage channels at the bottom."

So how long is the new surface likely to last?

"The original one went in at Huddersfield in 1993, nearly ten years ago with rugby being played as well. It is still going strong and is a good surface.

"There are new maintanance techniques that you can apply every year to help preserve the condition, like taking the top 5mm off after each season and replacing it."

By Richard Hubbard