Real Madrid and Arsenal in Cappielow visit

Mark Farrell was yesterday paid a visit by the head groundsmen of both Real Madrid and Arsenal as the pair kicked off a tour of Scottish stadiums by visiting Cappielow.

The Santiago Bernabeu’s Paul Burgess and Gunners stalwart Steve Braddock both dropped in at the Greenock ground yesterday to check out Farrell’s pristine playing surface.

They will be with the Ton turf enthusiast until Friday, traversing the country to take in pitches at Hampden, Livingston, Hearts, Arbroath, Dundee, Dundee United, Aberdeen, Elgin City, Ross County and Inverness.

Farrell told “I’m overwhelmed to have these guys who work at very, very big clubs – powerhouses of Europe – here at Cappielow today.

“They know I like to visit grounds and they see me as someone who loves to learn, and they’re the same. Just because they work at bigger clubs doesn’t make them any different to me in that sense.

“They have different pressures to what I have but we all want our pitches to be great so we all want to better ourselves and there’s a network of groundsmen and everyone wants to help each other out.

“They’ve come here to have a look at what sort of environments other groundsmen work in, because they want to see if they can help in any way and to learn as well. It’s two-way thing.”

La Decima … Paul with Gareth Bale and the Champions League trophy

Fellow Englishman Burgess, 38, who was headhunted by Madrid in 2009, was impressed by the Cappielow playing surface and reckons the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo would be more than happy playing on the pitch.

He added: “Once or twice a year I set up a tour of facilities, be that in the UK or across Europe or even in America, and a couple of years ago I did one with Steve Braddock and Simon from SGL, the lighting company.

“We agreed we’d have to do one of Scotland in a year or so, and this is the year. I’m in regular contact with Mark via Twitter, so I’m always seeing his Cappielow pitch on Twitter and we’re always commenting on each other’s playing surface and things.

“You only have to follow his Twitter to see he’s passionate about his job. He’s working on his own, long hours, and he does much more than just the pitch. He’s part of the fabric of the football club. What he’s doing is great.

“Mark was not only very keen for us to come here but he was very keen to showcase Scotland, so he is coming with us to a number of clubs as we dedicate five days, Monday to Friday this week, to look at facilities here.

“I’m just looking to see and learn new things and you can take something wherever you go, and when you go to places where the budget is less than what I have at Madrid, you see some creativity and people thinking outside the box.

“In the next year or so I want to make Madrid a little bit more cost effective and more environmentally friendly, and I think in that way Scotland is more advanced than what we are in Spain.

“I’m always looking at ways to make things better, whether that takes me to Morton or it takes me to Milan, and I think Mark’s pitch here is really good.

“When you consider the use it gets, with the Morton first-team, reserves, Celtic reserves and Youth Champions League games, and the harsh winter you get here in Scotland, it’s credit to Mark and a credit to the football club.

“It just proves that with a little bit of passion and a little bit of money spent on the right things you can grow natural grass. You don’t have to have plastic.

“The pitch is really nice and if Real Madrid were playing here I’m sure they would be more than happy with the surface.”

Paul started his pitchcare career at boyhood club Blackpool, and he sees similarities between the ground there and Cappielow.

He added: “I’m a Blackpool supporter and started there back in 1996, the stadium there was very similar to what you have here. So I love this, it’s proper football. It’s great!”

Award winner … Steve Braddock has been Arsenal groundsman for over 30 years

Award-winning Arsenal groundsman Braddock, 52, was hugely impressed by Mark’s dedication and unique methods.

He added: “This is the first time I’ve met Mark today, but Simon from SGL and Richard from Campey have known him for a long time.

“It’s been interesting. Mark showed a short video of a process that you would normally associate with a golf green and not a football pitch.

“It was quite fascinating to see someone have the dedication to trial something so unique, and it was good for me to see that.

“It’s now a case of telling the lads who work with me, who have all the equipment and resources to do the jobs, that maybe they might not have that one day if they move on.

“So it was really good to see someone achieving just as good results but doing it themselves using cheaper processes and cheaper machinery. It was fascinating to see that.

“And I must admit, I’m a dedicated person, but even me myself, I don’t think I would have gone to the level that Mark has done.

“I’m really, really impressed with the quality of the grass and the coverage considering we’re starting into the winter months.

“It’s a great surface and I’m sure a lot of players who play on this pitch will be pleased to play on this pitch, and psychologically it has such an influence on how players perform.”


Main image: Jonathan Mitchell