Steve Patrick, who celebrated 25 years with the club at Christmas, believes last season’s playing pitch was the pinnacle of his career and he hopes to maintain those high standards as Rovers push for a Premier League return.
Work is now well underway at the three sites that Steve oversees, including the five training pitches at the Senior Training Centre and two at the Academy.
The substantial outlay, sanctioned by the owners, will also cover the cost of new machinery and an irrigation upgrade on the sprinkler system at the Academy.
Coupled with the state-of-the art artificial pitch that was installed at Rovers’ Brockhall training base last year, Steve is confident the club will bear fruit from the regular revamps in the near future.
“It’s an incredible amount of money,” said Steve. “Last year I spent £650,000 on a 3G facility, which is absolutely awesome and the best thing we’ve probably ever done, as it gave us Category One status for the Academy.
“That’s used intensively right through the summer. There’s kids on there every day and every night, from six-year-olds up to 16s, so we will reap the rewards from that I’ve no doubt within the next five years.
“This year, when I went to the owners asking for £300,000, there was no hesitance at all.
“I’m confident that if we keep going the way we are, we’ve got Premier League infrastructure all the way through the club. I’ve got every confidence in Gary (Bowyer). He’s done a great job and I need to be sure that when we do get back into the Premier League, we’ve got the facilities we need to hold our heads up high as a Premier League club.
“The one thing you can’t do in this industry is stand still. If you do that, things start to deteriorate. You’ve got to keep your standards very, very high and we like to maintain those standards at the club and the owners want to maintain those standards and that’s what we want to do – we want to keep improving and keep getting better in every aspect and every department in the club, not just the pitches.
“We want to do better and we want to achieve things, Gary and the players know that, and we want to give the fans something to shout about.”
Steve was delighted with the standard of the Ewood surface last season – despite not getting the recognition he felt it deserved – and, weather permitting, he is confident of achieving a repeat result next term.
“I know we had a very mild winter and a very wet winter, but I felt that the pitch last season, in my opinion, was the best I’ve ever seen it while I’ve been head groundsman and I’ve been here 26 years now,” he added.
“Why we didn’t get nominated in the top three for the best pitch in the division is beyond me, because other clubs were shocked that they got it above us and Ewood was the best season I think it’s been while I’ve been at the club, so I think we’re doing something right.”
Steve’s step-by-step pitch process:
• 15mm vegetation taken off the top of the pitch
• Power harrow machine stirs all the material together, down to a depth of about 100mm
• Mix in some base fertilisers, stone rake the pitch to get it level again, roll it, consolidate it and seed it
• 20 bags of seed went down on Sunday and it will be green by the weekend
• Start cutting grass again 12-13 days from seeding
• From then on, aerating, cutting and fertilising – getting the turf established and making sure it is in ‘impeccable’ condition for the friendly against Stoke City on August 3rd.