Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney are just some of the world class players who will be gracing turf prepared by a former Myerscough College student this Summer.
As footballers and their fans travel from across the globe to prepare for the start of for the European Championships in France, Jonathan Calderwood will be pruning and trimming the grass at Paris’ Parc des Princes stadium.
The 37-year-old is the head groundsman at French champions Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and learnt his trade at the Preston college where he studied for a Higher National Diploma in Turf Science and Sports Ground Management.
Coming over from his home in Northern Ireland at 17, Jonathan was named Sportsturf Student of the Year, and as part of his prize worked at the old Wembley stadium on a six month placement, which lead to a full time job there when he graduated.
This would be the start of a prestigious career, which has seen him voted Institute of Groundsman (IOG) best in the English Premier League twice in both 2009 and 2012 for his work with Aston Villa and French Groundsman of the Year in his first season in 2013.
He has also been lauded by the biggest names in football with former Liverpool, PSG and Aston Villa manager Gérard Houllier claiming he was the best groundsman in the world. And even the best players in the world have heaped Jonathan with praise.
“When we played Barcelona, I was told that Messi and Neymar both said it was the best pitch they’ve ever played on, when we played Real Madrid last season I got the same feedback from them,” Jonathan said. “When you hear someone saying ‘the guy just cuts grass’ it’s a little bit hurtful because I know what skills are involved, what dedication, what hours, what knowledge and experience goes into having a pitch like what we have at PSG.
“Modern day football pitches are so complex and so complicated. I spent three years full-time studying and I would say 90% of my time was spent in the laboratory doing soil analysis, weeds, pesticides, disease management, wind, water, sunshine, fertiliser programmes and aeration - there is so much to it.
“If you’re a groundsman like me, you want to work at the very top and it doesn’t come much bigger than the European Championships.”
And out of the five fixtures being played on his pitch this Summer, one stands out for Jonathan.
He said: “For me to move to Paris and for Northern Ireland to end up playing Germany in Paris on my pitch, it doesn’t get any better than that - it’s like a dream come true.’’
And don’t miss the LEP’s Euro 2016 16-page pullout in tomorrow’s paper, starting on page 37.