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8th February 2024 21:09

Groundsman Michael Merriman (Mez), 18 January 2024, two days after the Forest Green game was postponed:

"It's the whole pitch now, it (the frost) has got in everywhere.
"Tuesday night was mainly (in front of) the West Stand as we always have the trouble, where it holds plenty of water and not very good grass coverage.
"The frost covers only go to a certain level, but only for a certain number of days. Once you've had them on for a number of days, the frost does start getting in there.
"And if there's not a lot of grass in certain areas, it's less effective.
"There's not much more we can do without undersoil heating.
"My garden's ok some days and I live a mile down the road. And I come here and it's either under water or frosty here.
"We've got these great big stands that shade the whole pitch. The whole pitch is shaded by 1pm at this time of year.
"You're lucky if you're getting 3 hours of sunlight on it.
"Local park will be fine, it's getting direct sunlight on it. So the temperature will be 3 or 4 degrees higher than here.
"Even when it's saying it's 4 degrees in Mansfield, it's actually not in here. It's like minus 4 because of the windchill. The fans probably know that when they are sat in the seats, it’s freezing. It affects the pitch.
Q: A non-league game could be on the down the road, when it isn’t here...
“Yes, they haven’t got the big stands around.”
“This pitch is now over 100 years old. It’s basically what I call a school field. The new pitches now have got gravel beds and sand beds. And then fibre sand on the top.”
Q: Is there anything else we can do?
“Not without spending crazy money. The chairman isn’t going to go: 'here’s £700/800 thousand for the pitch'. It’s unrealistic.
“You wouldn’t put undersoil heating in the pitch I’ve got. You’d have to have a reconstructed pitch. You’d start from the bottom, a gravel bed, lower root zone, upper root zone.”
Q: The protocols changed some years ago. In the Conference, and even when we got back in the FL, you could still call a local referee who’d be down in 10/15 minutes. Now that referee has to be appointed by EFL.
“Yes, can still be local. But EFL make the phonecall and EFL send him. In the past, local referees may help out, I’m not saying they did here.
“We don’t get any say. I didn’t think Tuesday (vs Forest Green) was bad at all. It was no harder than it would be in the summer. In my opinion. But my opinion doesn’t count for anything if the referee says he’s not happy. He decided it was too firm.”
Q: What’s the drainage like?
“It’s not too bad. What we had done in the summer, extra sand slits put in to alleviate that side. But we’ve had the wettest time ever, broken records. I’ve done this for 25 years and I’ve never seen anything like it.
“The drains are all working. But the water tables are through the roof.
“But we haven’t got a gravel bed. Between our sand slits, it’s our 100 year old pitch, which is clay, mud and sludge.”