Suffolk groundsman Symonds scoops national award

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A Suffolk groundsman said he could not believe it when his name was announced as the winner of a national award.

Bryan Symonds, of Bacton United 89 FC, was named winner of the National Step 7

And Below Award category at the Groundsman of the Year Awards, organised by The FA.

The 73-year- old, who won the Suffolk FA competition earlier this year, attended the awards event at the Hilton Hotel at St George’s Park on Tuesday.

Symonds, who was accompanied by club treasurer Martin Feverue, said: “It was a fabulous day out.

“I was surprised at the size of the place – the buildings and layout – and the pitches are phenomenal.

“When it came to the awards I was starting to think we were going to come away with nothing when clubs that were highly commended, third-placed and second-placed were read out and we were not among them.

“When it was announced that we had won I could not believe it.”

Winning the award capped off a memorable day that included a question and answer session with a panel of professional groundsmen and judges.

These included Alan Ferguson, head of grounds and estates at St George’s Park, Karl Standley, the head groundsman at Wembley Stadium, plus Lee Jackson and Andy Gray, head groundsmen at Manchester City and Southampton respectively.

Ironically, Ferguson, who was living at nearby Mendlesham and was Ipswich Town groundsman at the time, helped to advise Bacton on their pitches before the club moved to Brickwall Meadow in 2009.

There was then a tour of the site which included a focus on different types of pitch construction, new pitch maintenance practices, and a chance to view some of the machinery used on the site, before lunch was followed by the awards ceremony.

Although he is the groundsman, Symonds said that it was a real team effort at Bacton and praised the contribution of president Keith Miller, Roger Lawson, John Evans, Ivan Alexander and Neil Hitter.

“It would not be possible to do what we do without their help,” said Symonds.

“When we got back home we took the cup up to the ground and the first team, who were training, stopped and started clapping.”