With English Championship soccer side, Nottingham Forest FC, not only looking to regain Premier League status after a 15-year absence, as well as striving for Category One status for its Academy, maintaining the best training facilities for its first team through to youngsters as young as eight is a top priority.
Faced with the challenge of attracting and developing the region’s most talented young footballers, the Club’s management took the decision to install a new state-of-the-art outdoor 3G playing surface at its Nigel Doughty Academy. The ultimate objective was not only to achieve playing consistency for every one of the club’s youngsters, but also to secure Category One academy status under the FA’s Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP).
Having already invested in an indoor synthetic training pitch last year, the Club contacted TigerTurf; a leading manufacturer of synthetic sports surfaces in the UK, who manufactured and supplied a 7,094m² surface, which was installed by Sleaford-based independent sports surfacing specialist, Smith Construction.
At the request of the academy coaching staff, the surface was manufactured with markings giving it the versatility to be divided from an FA regulation 11-a-side pitch into four smaller pitches to be used by younger academy age groups. With the academy hosting many talented youngsters aged 8 – 19 from across the club’s representative teams every week, an adaptable 3G area was essential.
Boasting FIFA 1 and 2 star accreditation, TigerTurf’s Soccer Real 60XQ is the result of breakthrough polymer processing that eradicates weak points which may occur in the yarns as a result of the shape, therefore producing unrivalled split resistance. This results in a surface which is durable enough to offer long-term elite level performance without compromising the aesthetics. The third generation synthetic turf system is 60mm in length and comprises two unique profiled fibres; part-filled with rubber and sand to enhance ball roll.
To enhance the overall standard of the playing area, the football club also invested in the installation of recessed goal areas to ensure that those goalposts not being used can be moved away from the pitch to avoid any safety risks. With goalposts constantly being moved to accommodate academy squads of different ages, this was deemed essential by the coaching staff.
Gary Brazil, Academy Manager at Nottingham Forest Football Club, commented:
When the Club took the decision to invest in a new 3G surface at its academy, the Chairman’s view was that the quality of the playing surface had to come first, which is certainly reflected in the quality of its performance to date.
From a coaching perspective, we couldn’t be happier with the new surface as it allows us to do the technical work that we need to do with the youngsters at the club – and do it with quality. The reception from the players has been equally positive as the new pitches create conditions very, very close to those of natural grass. The ball holds up better than on other synthetic pitches we’ve seen which gives a truer playing environment.
As we aim to achieve Category One status for our academy as soon as possible, it is essential that we offer a top-class facility with top-class surfaces. The new artificial training pitch is second to none and perfectly enhances our grass pitches and indoor surface, giving us everything we need to meet Category One criteria, which is the ultimate aim for us irrespective of the division our first team is playing in.
The new 3G area is great as it gives us a full-sized 11-a-side pitch which can be broken down into an 11 v 11 pitch, a 9 v 9 pitch and two 7 v 7 pitches, depending on what we need at any given time. This works extremely well for both competitive fixtures and training. I don’t think we’d do anything different even if we were asked to do it all again.
Ewan Hunter, the Club’s Head Groundsman added:
As well as being able to handle the demands of every team that trains at our academy, it was also important for us to have a pitch that would be simple to maintain. By running a charterhouse groomer and brush across the surface in a couple of different directions once a week, we can ensure the rubber infill on the surface is always evenly distributed.
The 3G surface is simple to maintain and by working closely with the coaching staff to monitor how much each pitch is used and in which areas, we can adjust our maintenance schedule accordingly.