Groundsman interview

HEAD Stadium Groundsman Rob Lane discusses birds of prey, 'Rolls Royce' seed and the first cut of the summer as he prepares the hallowed Hawthorns turf for its Premier League curtain-raiser against AFC Bournemouth.

Assisted by fellow long-serving groundsman Dave Beard the pair will trim the turf some 30-plus times before the Cherries arrive in the Black Country on Saturday, August 12.

Lane reveals the tricks of the trade and his secret weapon following the first cut of the 14-day-old grass earlier today.

"Renovation works began immediately after the Chelsea game," said Rob.

"We sprayed a weed killer which took about seven to ten days to work its magic - then we used a spiral rake to take all the 'black layer' out. That's the stuff that would cause us drainage problems if we didn't deal with it. And the players' studs wouldn't take to the turf.

"We've had a whole new top on - so now it's the first cut and we're on our way! We usually cut the grass every other day from now on to keep in control of it."

But how do the Baggies groundsmen do what us mere mortals can't - stop birds from swooping down and eating the newly-planted seed?

"Funnily enough we've had a peregrine falcon take up residence here," Rob continued.

"We think he's made his way over from Sandwell Valley Park - he does a good job of deterring the pigeons from eating the seeds. It's like a Drive-Thru McDonald's for him at times!

"A lot of people in their own gardens say they have trouble with the seed not taking - but ours is the Rolls Royce of seed. It's coated in an accelerant which means it germinates almost immediately. It's about £65 for a 20kg bag."

So when will The Shrine be ready for Albion's opening game against the Cherries?

"The pitch is usually at matchday standard by the start of August. We always make sure we're ready for the first game of the season - if we're away from home then that extra week of preparation is a bonus.

"For Christmas we can't prepare - our job is very weather reliant so we have to wait and see.

"Never waste a dry day!"