TONIGHT is the last time that Burton Albion head groundsman Simon Marshall will be preparing the Pirelli Stadium pitch.
After coming to Burton Albion for the 2008/2009 season and having looked after 306 Brewers home games, Simon is moving to a new role with Premier Pitches and handing over the reins to his assistant Stan Wallis.
Simon was named Professional Football Groundsman of the Year in 2009/10 beating much bigger clubs with more resources and has made sure that games have gone ahead in even the most challenging weather conditions.
Simon says: “I have loved it. It has been a great experience and the whole journey has been amazing for me and the football club in the last 12 years.
“I think the pitch is now in even better shape than when I won the award. I would like to have won something with Stan but I think either this year or next he could go on to win an award as well.
“The weather has always been the biggest problem, especially in the early days when there were less people around and just the logistics of moving covers around was enormous. Planning for extremes of weather was always the biggest challenge.
“We have improved the drainage greatly on the pitch and it has coped with a very wet year this year.”
Simon rates the away game at Doncaster Rovers when the Brewers secured promotion to the Championship as his favourite moment.
He says: “I’m not an emotional person but I was crying that day with Stan.
“One of my favourite goals was when Michael Kightly lobbed the keeper against Norwich. There are so many great moments and the club has achieved so much in my time here.
“The key difference for me over the years was getting a qualified groundsman in Stan to support me. He has made a massive difference. His dedication and motivation has had a massive impact.
“I’ve already said that it is going to be hard not to care about the pitch even when I have moved on. It will be nice to just come back to games and not have to worry about things - although Stan might have a fork ready for me!
“When I started here, I knew very little about Burton Albion now it’s a big part of me. I can’t explain it, but I will support the club forever now.”
Stan said: “Simon is a great leader and has been a great friend to me. When I first came I had a little bit of experience but it's alright having a degree you have to go out and do the job so I learned all the practical skills and knowledge I needed from Simon in order to be in a position to replace him and carry on his good work.
“He's managed the team brilliantly and we have seen the pitch go from strength to strength. The standards have risen ten-fold because of the work Simon has put in behind the scenes.
“Hopefully, I can take it on and demonstrate what I can do and make sure it's good as it is now if not better as we are always looking to improve. I have my apprentice Josh Nixon to support me and he's learning all the time, like I was when I first started. If we can continue this upward trend we should be in a good place and can help the team keep performing as well.”
Burton Albion Chairman Ben Robinson said: “I want to thank Simon for his hard work and dedication over the last 12 years. So many people have commented on how good the pitch is and what a great job Simon and his team have done.
“He has made a massive impact during that time as a key member of staff here at the Pirelli Stadium. We all wish him well in his new role as Stan takes over and continues all that great work.”