Beef - grounds keeper at Doncaster town cricket club

Interview with Beef – our groundsman

So Beef, that’s what you’re known as around these parts, thank  you for sitting down with me today. It’s a much requested interview and part of a new series I am doing interviewing some of the faces people see around the club.

Firstly, you’re the head groundsman here, how long have you been?

This will probably be my 19 season here.

So 20 next year nice.

You have obviously seen a lot of changes over them years, we now have 4 competing teams which obviously adds to your workload, but what’s been your biggest change you have seen?

The biggest change when I took over a fellow called Ian Dickinson was the chairman and he was a big believer and before I did it, it was a succession of volunteers, students who did it for beer money, but when Ian took over as chairman he was a big believer in “if you make the ground better you would attract better players”.

He went to public school in York and it always needled him that York had beautiful young players because they was brought up on good grounds and to be fair to him the first thing he did when I took over was send me on a groundsman course. It was the best money the club has ever spent. Before I knew what to do but on the courses I found out why I needed to do different things made it a world of difference. So Ian in his chairmanship set out to improve the ground, after I had been here two years we had it all dug up and relaid. It was ever so low and slow, 150 was a cracking score, but know on a good day 250 isn’t enough. 

Probably the biggest change since I’ve been doing it has been and people have carried it on since but the club has invested in the ground, rather than more money to players. If I ever need anything within reason the club has always got me it. The following succession of committees from Dickinson forward have been very forward thinking in terms of the facilities . Hence why we are now Yorkshire’s preferred option for South Yorkshire, they wouldn’t have come within a million miles 20 years ago. 

Doncaster motors Cricket storage shed at Doncaster town cricket club

Thanks to all the supporters and business which helped fundraise last year to get Beef a new Groundsman hut, especially Doncaster Motor’s who sponsored it.

That help obvisouly helps the club?

Yeah, it attracts better players and makes better players. 

It also helps the juniors as well as they are playing on better pitches. 


Are you also responsible for our second ground down at Finno.

Yeah and when I’ve packed in will be one of the things im most proud of, foreget the outfield, their football pitches but the square itself was dreadful. It was looked after by volunteers, a farmer used to do it and a few seasons ago the season was finished fairly early so me and my son Joe who was helping me said, what are we going to do. I will kill it, weedkiller it and start again. So we did that abouyt 5 season ago and now it plays as well as this. The square itself at Finningley does, its bang on now. 


But the outfielf isn’t great though is it.


it is what is, its going to get better as im now doing htat as well but its still got football on it, but its never going to be that (pointing to the outfield at Town fields).

Grounds keeper cutting the grass at Doncaster town cricket club

Is it just you, or do you have a team to help you?

Just me, when I first started I was an electrician having my own business doing that half the week and cricket the other half the week, but when I first started my dad did the outfield for me. Roy the chairman did all the rolling and Joe who was a young lad then would help me. But now Roy and my Dad are up there and Joe does it for a living himself. 

Is it a full time job?

It is in the summer.

Actually that’s one of my next questions, when is the busiest time of the year for you. I was down here towards the late summer last year and you was putting the new seed down.

Last two weeks of the season.

Getting ready for next season.

Digging it all up, re seeding, so early October is my busiest. The busiest if you believe it or not is when no cricket is on, because the grass is still growing.

I did think that was going to be your answer, getting the pitches right for the following season determines whether they can play or not. 

Correct if you don’t get your end of season done right, the year after is a nightmare. 

Grounds keeper marking the pitch at Doncaster town cricket club

What’s your favourite thing about being a groundsman?

Subathing on salary.

It is meant to be a summer sport, but looking up today it doesn’t look to sunny.

My favourite time is on a Friday night, when everything is done for a Saturday game and you can go up there (poitning to pavilion) and have a pint looking over it all.  

If someone young wanted to get into being a ground keeping firstly would you recommend it and secondly what advice would you give them?

Yes I would, but when Joe said after he left school at 18 he wanted to be a cricket groundsman. No thats what you do later.

Go to a golf course, get an apprenticeship. So Joe went to Askern Bryan college and then you get placements to golf courses, because with that you learn everything.

Apart from my Institute of groundsman certificates I’ve got nothing. No formal qualifications, where he know at 33 years old has the heads groundsman job at Worksop college. Best gig you can get, because he went and got all his qualifications. He actually took a year out and did a degree in it. 

I would say it’s a brilliant job, it’s a fantastic job, but learn on a golf course. 

Joe would work there during the week (golf courses) and then he was looking after Finningley for me. So I would do Town fields and he would do Finningley for a some extra cash. 

So we have quite a few games down here, I think this is the third game this weekend (Interview was done on Bank Holiday Monday), how many pitches do you create for the season and how often would you allow them to be used before they are done and can’t be played on anymore.

The way we do it here, it’s a big square. It’s 14 pitches but the end two are really just practice pitches. So theres 12 main ones.

It goes; first team get a fresh one on a Saturday, the following week the second team get it second handed, so nobody uses it between them. Once the second team have used it, its fit for ladies, under 15s, whoever else wants to use it and the first team use them for training until its no good.

As it happens, this one is getting a third use by the first team. 

If the Wednesday fixtures want to use it they can, but they usually play on astro. 

But not till second team have used it, but after that it’s fine. Another fresh one will be cut for the first team the following week. 

Do you come back to the first ones towards the end of the season or once they are done are they done for the season?

Ideally no, I think in the last two seasons Ive had to bring one back, but generally when they are done they are done for that season, not at Doncaster anyway with 14 decks. Because you are going to get one or two through out the season called off for rain. 

So obviously Yorkshire seconds are playing down here (come down and watch them), will they get a fresh pitch.

Yeah with that they will get a brand new pitch, but they are only T20 matches so will be fine for the game on the weekend. But it will be a county standard pitch for the first team on the weekend that will have only had 40 overs on it. 

Beef - grounds keeper at Doncaster town cricket club

What’s been your most momberable moment being a groundsman, creating Finningley?

That will be my best achievement, but getting county games here, from where we was to the standard now. 

Actually no my greatest achievement was 2012 – I got Yorkshire groundsman of the year. Yorkshire league groundsman of the year, thats Headingley, Scarborough etc thats my greatest achievement. 

Yorkshire League groundsman of the year, thrilled to bits. 

So they are about to start a game out there, in the next 30 mins, so what happens on a game day morning.

Depends how much I get done on a Friday, but cut it, roll it, lay the disks out etc.
I always like to stay for the first few overs to see how it plays.

That was going to be my next question, Ive heard a rumour you always stay for the first ball is that correct?

Yeah I always stay for the first ball. 

What happens between the first team batting and the second team batting, can you go out and make nay adjustments.

You have to sweep the wickets, but you are not allowed to do anything to the pitch, maybe a light roller but thats it, but i don’t do that. Some other lads do it for me.

So we have kind of touch on it, but you are now playing for our 4th team, has cricket always been a passion for you. 


What type of player are you? Batter, bowler, all rounder?

Now, Im a fat old cripple but I started off as a bowler who could bat. But as I got older I became a batter who could bowl. 

Is there anything you see down here during training / games you don’t like?

Everything. A groundsman hate cricketers. But my biggest hate is bowlers gouging a run up. 

I had a feeling you might say that, would it not make sense in the club to invest in some run up markers for the teams to use.

They got them, but bowlers they are thick, they will dig. a big hole and then drop the marker, but if you look out there (pointing to the pitch) there is spray paint so I ask them before the game to use it. 

But anyone who scratches grass, bowlers, wicket keepers, batters, fielders. 

So you been in cricket a while, whats your favourite type. T20s, One days etc.

Hell no, T20s are an absolute abomination  of cricket. Hundreds even worse. Theres only one type of cricket, test match cricket. Everything else is practice. 

How you can have a world cup of evening league cricket is beyond me. It’s not cricket its baseball. The hundred is for people who cant concentrate for long enough for T20. It’s done for people who can’t drink for more than 6 pints. 

And cricket is definitely a drinking sport,

Oh god yeah, spectating cricket is. However I could tell you some stories of Doncaster league umpires taking pints out to umpire. There was one fellow I cant remember his name, but he got banned. He used to have 3 or 4 pints before the game and a couple of pints between innings. He got banned for relieving himself at square leg. 

We’re coming to the end of the interview now, is there any plans for you retire.

I will keep doing this till I don’t enjoy it anymore. Ive semi retired from all the other stuff, I don’t do any other grounds now. 

Thank you for your time today.

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