AS sure as night follows day, so spring sees the annual debate about the state of the pitch at St George’s Lane.
It is a discussion which usually comes down on the side of the surface not being good enough and hampering Worcester City’s attempts at passing the ball.
This season has seen similar criticism, with manager Carl Heeley not happy with uneven bounces and suggestion from some quarters that Michael Taylor’s shot struck a divot before catching the post against Stalybridge Celtic last Saturday.
Such remarks are not without foundation — the ball does deviate erratically and players from both sides are sometimes made to look foolish through no fault of their own.
Yet, it is worth pointing out that the pitch is in better nick than it was 12 months ago. A lot of money — around £3,000 — was spent on a new irrigation system, while the club also sought advice from The Institute of Groundsmanship.
It is still far from perfect, a situation not helped by a delay in sourcing parts to get the watering system working at full throttle, coupled with the lack of rain.
There is also the problem of over-use.
As well as 21 home games each for City and tenants Evesham United, there have been cup matches for both teams, a host of junior fixtures, while all of the Worcester and District League cup finals will be staged there.
RGS Worcester and King’s, Worcester, also play their annual fixture tonight.
That workload has taken its toll but it’s a catch 22 situation for the Blue Square Bet North club. More matches see the pitch deteriorate but the club cannot afford to turn down the vital revenue hiring it brings in.
Ironically, City will find the same problem when the leave the Lane next year and have to ground-share themselves.
Director Mike Davis, one of the driving forces behind attempts to improve the surface, accepts the dilemma but believes the efforts of last summer are reaping their rewards.
“I am convinced it has worked,” he said. “Last year, we spent about £8,000 on end-of-season renovation and we won’t have to spend anything like that this year because there will be more grass left on the pitch.
“That cost will be reduced tremendously, owing to the fact there is a regular fertiliser programme and it was regularly watered during the summer into early winter.
“We have got a lot of grass on it compared with many clubs at this level and I overheard an ex-director on Saturday saying he had never seen so much grass on there in March.”
That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement given the sandpits of previous seasons but Davis and groundsmen Tom Allcut and Paul Humphries are certainly making progress.
Davis added: “It’s frustrating for Tom and Paul, they are tearing their hair out because the amount of wear is in excess of what a football pitch should have.
“You watch Match of the Day on a Saturday night and look at the Premier League pitches and they’re all green. But they won’t have played on it for a fortnight and don’t have teams sharing so I think the lads have done really well.”