Rovers’ head groundsman Steve Patrick believes the club’s owners are laying the seeds for a brighter future at Ewood Park after continued investment this summer.
A Rovers season ticket holder on the Riverside before joining the club’s staff in 1988, Steve is currently celebrating 25 years in the job.
During that time, he has worked for more than a dozen different managers and takes great pride in Rovers’ Premiership title triumph of 1995.
Despite dropping down to the Championship, Steve can see Rovers returning to the glory days under Jack Walker due to Venky’s dedicated approach to providing first-class facilities for the players to progress.
Steve, who has twice flown out to India to meet the owners, heads up a department of eight groundstaff, who look after the playing surfaces at Ewood, the Senior Training Centre and the Academy.
The three sites have been boosted by a £200,000 investment this year – on top of the £650,000 spent on the state-of-the-art synthetic surface at the entrance to Brockhall.
And Steve confirmed that big plans are in place, should Rovers return to the top flight at the end of the coming campaign.
“I can’t fault the owners,” said Steve. “They have been absolutely fabulous with me personally and the needs of my department.
“The need to produce great training facilities for the lads to become better players and the young lads to progress and become professional footballers.
“We’re in a very fortunate position that we have got committed owners, who are showing willing when it comes to signing the cheques. I know the lad over at Blackpool, who got pelted last year for having a shocking surface. We’ve been there, done it and bought the t-shirt years ago, where you’ve tried to manage on a shoestring and it does make you appreciate what you’ve got when you’ve got it.
“In the heyday of Jack (Walker), we got everything we ever wanted and they were great times, and there can be great times again with the current owners, because they are very committed and very proud people and they want this to be right.
“It’s a long time since we’ve had anything like a reconstruction at Ewood – I’m going back to the late-80s – so we are probably overdue and Mrs Desai recognises that.”
With charity matches taking place at Ewood until late May and a pre-season friendly against Everton confirmed for July 27th, Steve insists it will be a tight turnaround to get the pitch ready in time, but he is confident of providing Gary Bowyer with a playing surface that will help the team mount a serious Championship challenge.
“We’re looking at a very tight close season this time,” Steve added.
“In an ideal world, you would give yourself 10-12 weeks. This time we’ve got about seven weeks until the first game. We have done it before, but you’re dependent on the weather.
“Gary Bowyer is a great believer in pass-and-move football. He’s a great coach, a fantastic guy and I’m looking forward to working with him immensely.
“I’ve known him for quite a number of years now and I know exactly what Gary wants and I’m going to produce what Gary needs.
“I can’t thank the owners enough. We’ve gone through a tough time and it’s been a transitional period, but I think we’re going to come out the tunnel at the other end with a better future to look forward to.”