Pitching in with Steve - a week in the life of the Wembley turf


Last updated at 10:30 19 May 2007

The white horse trampled across it, Germany's defence crumbled on it and FA Cup Final legends were born on it. The old Wembley was as much about the immaculate, sponge-like playing surface as the Twin Towers.

Now Steve Welch has to recreate the green, green grass of home. The stadium's grounds manager, formerly Groundsman of the Year at Nottingham Forest, allowed Sportsmail's LEE CLAYTON an exclusive look at his diary of the last week.

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Wembley groundsman


We've had the FA Trophy and FA Vase finals over a wet weekend and the pitch came through very well. It shows the work we have done in the last six or seven weeks is starting to take effect.

The pitch was laid in June last year, but I have only been able to take it on since March 10 after the handover from stadium builders Multiplex.

The pitch didn't play how I wanted it to for the England Under 21 match in March but we'd only had it for seven days. This is a sand-based pitch now, the old stadium had a soil-based pitch. We've built the pitch from a turf surface (750 rolls, each weighing a tonne).

Today completed the divoting, knocking back the scar marks. The weather has been changeable so we use lighter rotary mowers to hoover the surface to take away any debris, to leave us with a clean surface.


Go to work by the Tube - the only way to travel to Wembley - and walk in along Wembley Way, taking a look at the Bobby Moore statue. We double-brush the surface with scatter brushes to remove the rain and dew. I needed it dry, so it could be cut.

We mow the pitch and put a dressing of fertiliser on it. That's not for the FA Cup Final but so the surface is kept happy for the play- offs the weekend after and England's match against Brazil on June 1.

The event teams are preparing for a pretty fantastic opening ceremony. Having seen it, all I can say is get here early. David Beckham came to visit, so did Trevor McDonald. The pitch is going well.


Burshed the surface, removed the dew and double-cut the pitch. We put down lines so that every single mowing line is straight. This is the first match cut, to get the sharpness into the grass and give it that stunning appearance.

The Arch was lit. The floodlights were on. The PA system is being tested and the same record is being played continually to ensure the levels are the same throughout the stadium. Me and my team know the words to Madonna's "Holiday" off by heart.


Reduced the length of the grass to its match height. We had left it a little long for protection. There are rehearsals on the pitch. We used our drag brush on the back of the tractor to take the footprints away afterwards.

I'm not there thinking "get off my pitch!" A groundsman is always very protective of his pitch, but essentials are necessary. We don't like it if people treat it like any old piece of grass.

It's an extension of a groundsman's right arm. Water the pitch, take part in a couple of interviews. Gary Lineker is in the stadium for filming, so we are juggling when we need to switch mowers on and off.


Run through the laying of the new red carpet. The lovely Kirsty from our PR department plays the Queen! Rehearsals finish at midday, we spring straight into action, walking the surface to make sure nobody has scuffed anything.

Double-cut the pitch again. Water the pitch. Rigging of the nets. Will I allow myself a whack of the ball into the top corner? No. None of my team is allowed to kick a ball on the pitch.

It's our baby. Water the pitch again overnight, to maintain a good stud hold. Make sure all the equipment is ready, such as corner flags.


I will start at 5.30am. Brush the surface. Double-mow the pitch to give it a real fine, sharp, level cut to stripe it and make it look fantastic. Line and mark the pitch so that it looks bright and electric. Final check of the nets.

The main FA Cup banner, with the name of the sponsors E.ON, will be in the centre circle. The pitch will be completely ready for action by midday. Will get the sprinklers on at some stage. Then it's game on - and the work has only just started.

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