Meet Deepdale’s sparky

North End electrician Mick Townsend and one of the floodlight pylons he maintains

North End electrician Mick Townsend and one of the floodlight pylons he maintains

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It is a fair bet that most Preston supporters carry memories of PNE’s victory over Blackpool in the Capital One Cup last season.

Mick Townsend certainly does because he watched the first half from 150ft above Deepdale!

Townsend is Deepdale’s stadium electrician, a big part of his remit the repair and maintenance of the four floodlight pylons which tower above the ground.

He was only a few weeks into the job when North End met Blackpool in the televised cup clash and a big challenge came his way shortly before kick-off.

“Not long before the game started I switched on the floodlights, just to get the jump on the referee asking me to do it,” said Townsend.

“All the lights came on apart from the pylon above the tunnel. I went to check the fuse box which was in the tunnel and the Sky Sports cameras were there filming the players as they got ready to go out on to the pitch.

“The fuses were fine so the problem was in the lights themselves, so it was a case of putting the harnesses on and going up the pylon.

“Luckily the problem was in the control panel, one fuse can take all the lights out.

“It was a case of flicking it back on and myself and my apprentice Sam watched the first half from up there.

“At the moment, we are in the process of moving all the control gear down to ground level.

“When the stadium was redeveloped, the control gear for the floodlights was put on the pylons themselves.

“Up there, the equipment takes a pounding from the weather and it has deteriorated over the years.

“We have been moving the panels down one pylon at a time and we are on the last one at the moment.

“If there is a big problem, like the one before the Blackpool game, we can now fix it down on the ground.

“The only reason to have to go up the pylons now is to change the lamps.”

There are 25 lamps in each pylon illuminating Deepdale, the climb to the top a familiar one for Townsend.

He likes the fact that the ground redevelopment was done with traditional floodlight towers rather than the design followed at many modern stadiums where a row of lights are positioned along the stand roof.

Townsend said: “Each lamp is 2,000 watts – compare that to your average household light bulb which is 40 or 60 watts. They cost about £100 per bulb and we have 100 of them – 25 in each pylon.

“The bulbs are supposed to last for thousands of hours but I have probably changed 20 since I started here 18 months ago.

“Going up there in bad weather can be a bit hairy. I was up one of the pylons last week and the wind was about 30mph.

“It is not so bad when you are on the platform under the lights – you are fenced in.

“It is when you are standing on the second-to-the-top row of lights changing a bulb in the top row that it isn’t so good!

“We are harnessed with ropes and straps and we use a company called Green Access to help with the climbing.

“They are there to rescue us if we get stuck – the Fire Brigade hasn’t got anything which could rescue us…it is more of a mountain rescue thing. Thankfully I have never been stuck.”

Townsend, 52, has responsibility for all things electrical at Deepdale and Springfields, and the floodlights at Chorley FC.

Operating as a sparky in football is fairly new to him, his background being working for the Home Office.

Said Townsend: “I worked as an electrical contractor for the Home Office for 20 years.

“A lot of the work was in prisons – I worked at Wormwood Scrubs, Wymott and Lancaster Castle.

“Working in a prison was a strange environment. You had to be obsessive to make sure you didn’t leave tools out or even the tiniest piece of metal which could be used as a weapon.”