Meet the Members: David Newell

Featured in this issue of Meet the Members is our interview with David Newell, Deputy Head Groundsman at Reading Football Club, UK. Here, David explains how he worked up to his current job role, his future plans to work with warm-season grasses overseas, and which “old-school bangers” he’d have on his ideal work playlist.

What inspired you to pursue a career in turf?

To be quite honest, I couldn’t tell you. I knew I’d like to work in agriculture or in football, luckily I sort of found a middle ground for both! A Job that wasn’t 100% office-based was my preference.

David Newell - Reading F.C

How did you find your current job at Reading F.C.?

I was working on the matchday team at the time, then the current head groundsman asked if I wanted to apply, so I did, and managed to get the job. I then worked my way up to the position I am now in.

Would you ever consider working overseas?

In my 10-year plan, my aim is to work with warm weather grass, either in South America, Southern Europe, or in North Africa. England is far too cold for me in the winter. So yes, I would love to work abroad.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself since starting your groundskeeping journey?

How much I’ve learned in relation to the industry. I do most of the spraying here at Reading, so learning about what products do what and why they affect the leaf or soil has been amazing. This industry will continue to try new things in relation to chemical processes to meet EU law or new sustainability plans so there is always something new to learn.

If you could create the perfect playlist for a day on the job, what songs would be on it?

Would be a mixture of what I class as “old-school bangers”, songs like In Da Club by 50 Cent and Angel by Shaggy. But would probably have some country songs in too.

What’s one piece of equipment you couldn’t live without, and how does it make your job easier or more enjoyable?

My Tech-neat sprayer, it’s an absolute lifesaver if the pitch isn’t quite where we want it health- or colour-wise. It’s so quick to get liquid and soluble product out. Spraying the stadium pitch is the most satisfying job to complete.

What’s the most challenging weather condition you’ve faced while working in the stadium, and how did you handle it?

In our stadium, we can reach temperatures of 40°c. Last summer, a disease called Grey Leaf Spot appeared. Trying to navigate a disease that doesn’t have a recognised fungicide that can shut it down was a challenge. Learning how the disease spreads due to conditions was certainly a learning curve, but has made me more aware for next summer and knowledge for my future job endeavours.

What goals and aspirations do you have for your career in turf for the long term, and how has this opportunity brought you closer to achieving them?

My long-term goal is to become a Head/Grounds Manager at a football ground abroad. Working at a football club like Reading has been/would be a massive challenge for anyone I believe, mainly due to financial constraints, so to do it here makes me believe I could do it anywhere.

What keeps you in the industry?

Definitely not money! I would say working for the football club I support would play a big factor. Also, the job satisfaction when you produce a surface that plays and looks good, there is no better feeling. It’s also an industry that continues to change, so it really is a job like no other.

What inspiring words would you say to young greenkeepers?

The harder you work and the more you apply yourself to learn, the higher the chance of success in what you want to achieve as your career goes on.

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