Sowing seeds of City's success

PUBLISHED: 13:17 24 May 2006 | UPDATED: 09:26 14 September 2010

DAVID CUFFLEY

The hallowed turf at Carrow Road is getting its roots done - by the man responsible for putting in new pitches at Wembley and Arsenal's Emirates Stadium.

The hallowed turf at Carrow Road is getting its roots done - by the man responsible for putting in new pitches at Wembley and Arsenal's Emirates Stadium.

Norwich City's playing surface, rebuilt two years ago at a cost of £650,000, is undergoing summer renovation to bring it back to tip-top condition for the first pre-season match in just over nine weeks' time.

Hard at work yesterday with head groundsman Gary Kemp and his staff was John Hewitt, boss of Leicester-based Hewitt Sportsturf, who laid City's new pitch in 2004. His company's two biggest projects at the moment are building state-of-the-art surfaces at Wembley and Arsenal, each costing £2m.

The Canaries' repair work, which started on Monday and will cost about £17,000, involves removing all the real grass in the pitch from between the 54 million metres of permanent, artificial grass threaded into the eight-inch top surface two years ago.

They will be adding 80 to 100 tons of sand, spiking, re-seeding with rye grass and then letting nature take its course over the warmer days of June and July.

“This work has to be carried out every two years,” said Kemp. “People ask why we are doing this when the pitch was rebuilt two years ago, but it's essential to stop meadow grass getting a hold and causing problems in the winter.

“It's like a very, very severe scarifying process. The tractor is effectively pulling a big comb across the pitch and raking the grass out of the plastic. We're taking away about a dozen 20-ton lorry loads. We'll be seeding at the end of the week, then what we need is some warm, dry weather for good growing conditions.”

Hewitt, a consultant to most Premiership clubs, has been building football pitches for 25 years. He said Arsenal, whose new “Rolls- Royce of pitches” has now been seeded, were using the same Desso Grassmaster technology as Norwich, interweaving artificial grass with the real thing. The pitch at Wembley, however, will be laid as turf.

He said: “We should be turfing Wembley in the second week of June. It's been growing in a field in Lincolnshire for two years and will be ready for play as soon as it goes down.”

Both Wembley and Arsenal will use sophisticated air ventilation systems.

“They're both having a ducted air system installed underneath the pitch to allow oxygen to get to the roots. The fact that they're both spending £2m tells you that they will have everything you can possibly have in this day and age.”

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