To celebrate Grounds Week 2022, we caught up with Head Groundsman Craig Harvey ahead of the new season.
Craig has been a constant at The County Ground for two decades and couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.
“I’m a Northampton boy, it’s pretty simple. I support Northamptonshire and I love working here.”
“As a young lad I got given the opportunity to progress here and I’ve worked myself through rags to riches I suppose you could say, I just love being here.”
Despite the demands of the job Craig says he still loves what he does.
“You’re not in this job if you don’t love it that’s for sure. It’s one of the best things when you sit back and the cricket’s on and the pitch looks and plays perfect, there’s not better feeling.” Harvey said.
“It’s pretty full on through the summer, all the hours God sends is the easiest way of putting it. We’ve got a team of six and I’d say on average between February and October we’re putting in about seventy hours a week each.”
There’s been a raft of changes and improvements since he first started working on the Wantage Road outfield, particularly with the tools at their disposal.
“There’s such a big difference between now and when I first started. I’ll be honest we were stuck a bit in the stone ages initially and over the last six years Ray [Payne, Chief Executive] has upgraded our kit and we have some really nice machinery now. The technology in the kit now is far superior to what it was 20 years ago.”
While the pandemic provided a welcome opportunity for home gardeners to exercise their green thumb over the last couple of years, it provided a difficult challenge for Craig and his team.
“Every season has it’s challenges but the worst one was the pandemic.” Harvey said.
“It was just me and my deputy every single day working apart and in different conditions. Working through the pandemic trying to keep everything at bay with just two people and then getting things ready for the restart was tough.”
The ground staff also face a unique challenge at The County Ground which serves as an events venue, hosting concerts with up to 20,000 people on the outfield.
“The bigger the concert the more the challenge, it’s always manageable but it’s definitely stressful, you have such a short window to turn it all around.
“The square takes a lot of stress because it’s covered but and there’s obviously a lot of compaction across the whole outfield, a lot of junk gets left behind as well.”
There’s often a stereotype of the grumpy groundsman that hates seeing their pristine pitches and outfields used, but for Craig this couldn’t be further from the truth.
“At the end of the day, if they’re not being used then what are we here for?” he asked.
“For me there’s no better feeling than sitting down and watching your pitches getting played on.”
“No matter what level you’re at, whether it’s the pros or at the lunch break with kids running around enjoying themselves, it always brings that pleasure because it’s good to see people at sports stadiums playing their sports.
“You take great joy in seeing it look nice obviously so I know what people mean, you worry they might ruin it but you’re doing it for a reason and that’s to be used.”