Groundsman looks back on his 37 years with Dereham Town FC
Long-serving groundsman Alan Hall kept Dereham Town's football pitch in such tip-top condition that higher league clubs such as Stoke, Wolves and Fulham deemed it good enough for training sessions.
Mr Hall, who is 70 next week, has retired after 37 years as club groundsman, first at the recreation ground and then at the current ground at Aldiss Park.
He’s proud of his time at the club, and said: “The pitch has had a really good reputation as being top class, second to Norwich City in Norfolk, and the facilities are good.
“The pitch was so highly regarded that teams used to hold light training sessions there, ahead of matches with Norwich City.
“I remember many teams coming including Blackburn and Hull. Norwich City used to come for pre-season friendlies and I remember manager Nigel Worthington complimenting me on the pitch.”
Three years ago he was named the Ryman League’s top groundsman at the FA’s Groundsmen of the Year awards.
Self-taught, he said there was no secret to keeping the pitch in such good shape.
He added: “I used to be at the ground five or six days a week, so it was a case of, if work was needed, then I did it. I had a lot of help from Andrew Harding at a seed company. The key was to keep on top of it, water it when the time was right,”
Mr Hall, of Southend, Dereham, worked at Cranes in the town before becoming a groundsman.
He was there for 18 years, and added: “I was on the football club committee and the old boy who used to be the groundsman retired. “After that, I did the work, as and when, and then in 1990 there was a government scheme that paid so much a week if you set up your own business, so I did that.”
Mr Hall also worked as groundsman at the cricket club for many years and was a well-known football referee.
Rene Kendal, Dereham Town FC’s press officer, said: “Alan has done a tremendous job in maintaining our pitch over many years. The club has come a long way since our days on the recreation ground, with sometimes three midweek games being played on the pitch, as well as weekends. All visiting teams enjoyed playing on our excellent surface. Alan will be a hard act to follow and we thank him for all his work.”