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Catching up with Vale Park Head Groundsman Steve Speed

18 March 2021

A catch up with Speedy!

Q1: What is your role at Port Vale Football Club and how long have you been in the post? 

I have been groundsman for 41 years and head groundsman for the last 29 years. 

Q2: What does your role involve during the week and on match days? 

My job is 24/7. I look through the curtains for rain, snow and frost! I normally start work about 7 o'clock when I have a walk on the pitches. Then I keep a close eye on the weather forecast and talk to the football manager about the conditions and what he requires for either training or matches.

Then I brief groundsman Glenn Jeneson and assistant Gaz Walker on the planned work for the day on the pitches and around the stadium.

On matchdays we start earlier – about 6am. I have to consider if the pitch will the take the rain or will it be too dry because ours is not a modern sand base pitch with a pop-up sprinklers system. I cut the grass and put a nice pattern on it. Glenn then marks it out and places advertising signs on the pitch. Gaz works on the training ground. We have to be all ready for 1 o’clock for a chat with referee and then for the visiting team to do their warm-ups. Some fitness coaches cause us problems because they set up in an area of the pitch which may not be the best and they can ruin it before a game with a 10-minute session and more of the same after the final whistle.

After the game finishes we immediately begin getting ready for the next match. 

Q3: What’s the best thing about your job? What are the things you enjoy the most? 

These days it’s hard to find young ground staff who want to work antisocial hours. However, at 2 o’clock on a Saturday when you look out at the pitch and it’s ready, there is no better feeling. You can say to yourself ‘I’ve done my best with what we have got to work with’. It’s definitely worth the hard work.

Q4: How has Covid and the pandemic affected you and your team? 

Through the pandemic it’s been a long, dry summer. Not knowing when the season was finishing or starting made planning very hard for us. There’s been a lot of training to plan for as well – for the First Team and the Academy. The recent months have been some of the wettest I have ever known. 

Q5: You’ve been at Vale Park for more than four decades, Steve. What are your favourite memories and who have been your favourite players over the years? 

When I arrived at Vale Park the pitch was six yards wider and, over the years, managers have made it smaller. The pitch size should always be to our advantage. I only say this because my favourite players were wingers Mark Chamberlain and Steve Fox. The best game I’ve seen was the playoff final in 1989. We had a great team and Robbie Earle was simply brilliant.

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