Preston North End’s groundstaff have expressed their joy at Deepdale’s playing surface being named Sky Bet League One’s pitch of the year.
The Lilywhites’ pitch beat Bristol City’s Ashton Gate and Rotherham United’s New York Stadium to win the gong for the 2013/14 season.
The Club’s head groundsman Pete Ashworth was delighted with the award, saying: “It’s just really nice to get recognised for it because we had a hard season last year so it’s nice to have a good one straight away after.
“It was a wet winter so you’re always a bit worried but as long as we can get a good surface for the team, if we get rewarded at the end it’s nice.”
Pete admits he finds it difficult to relax during home games because he is so worried about how the playing surface will fare.
“I do spend most of the match watching the pitch and sometimes you miss goals because you’re just that paranoid,” he added.
“They pass it back to Declan [Rudd] and you think ‘please don’t bobble’ but it’s really hard because there is a bit of pressure because they want to be able to play football.
“You don’t want players moaning and whinging so it’s a tough job.”
North End’s assistant groundsman Dean Ash, who has been at the Club for almost 12 years, was also happy with the achievement.
Dean, 28, is the only member of groundstaff permanently based at Deepdale, while others also have non-league side Chorley’s pitch to tend to.
“I’m especially proud because I’m here every day, I feel like it’s my pitch,” he exclusively told PNE.Com.
“Obviously Pete is the head groundsman but I am on it every day and I’ve been here a long time and we have been nominated three or four times.
“But this is the first time we’ve actually won it so I’m really happy.”
Dean believes this season’s success is down to the emphasis placed on presentation and has paid tribute to the respect manager Simon Grayson has given the pitch as well as the Club’s board for their continued support.
“I think we have put a lot of time and effort into presentation, the markings out, the stripes and things like that get noticed,” Dean said.
“The manager has been very, very respectful to it, not training on it when there were plenty of times when he could have but he has chosen to look after the pitch instead and we’re thankful to him for that as well.”
He added: “The board are very good with us, they give us their backing and just let us get on with our job.”
North End boss Grayson believes the award is well deserved due to the dedication of the groundstaff. He commented: “It’s fantastic for Pete and all his staff, they work extremely hard.
“Right from pre-season, day one, when we came back the pitch was in fantastic condition, everyone from Liverpool commented on it and it has been kept in immaculate condition.
“We have tried to work with them up at the training ground, we have utilised every aspect of the training ground.
“We have not trained on Deepdale as much which gives us that opportunity to keep it in good condition because the way we want to play, we want to have a good surface.”