Preston Grasshoppers Groundsman Who Played With England Rugby Star

It’s Tuesday 28 September, 1869 and Preston Grasshoppers Rugby Club has just been founded after a meeting at the Bull Hotel, Preston.

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Credit: George Hodgson

In 10 months time, the club will celebrate it’s 150 year anniversary, and one man who has seen the rise of the Lightfoot Green outfit is Dave Preston, the club’s head groundsman.

It’s a second home for him and he has seen some of Rugby’s biggest names begin their career at the club, who he briefly played for too.

The 54-year-old, who works tirelessly, has seen the likes of Steve Borthwick, Paul Grayson and Wade Dooley earn their trade at Grasshoppers, all of whom went on the represent the national side.

But Will Greenwood, who has his shirt on display in the clubhouse, is the player Preston shared the pitch with in his playing days.

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Credit: George Hodgson

Greenwood made over 50 appearances for England and has a 2003 World Cup winners medal, but his career started in Lancashire as a 16-year-old ‘skinny geek’, at the ground that Preston keeps in pristine condition every day.

“I played with him for his one and only game here!” he said “He probably won’t remember it, but we did win at Davenport on the day, which is now Stockport.

“I had no idea at the time what he would go on to produce.

“He was a skinny 16-year-old back then, I tended to play in the lower teams and captained the fifth and fourth team.

“It’s not a surprise though because we have always had a huge junior section and have 500 kids down here on a Sunday sometimes.”

It was a Friday afternoon of hard work for Preston, who had just finished mowing the back pitches before he reflected on how far the club has come during his time there.

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Credit: George Hodgson

“It’s fantastic,” he insisted. “It’s the fourth ground the club’s been at, but we’re going to be stopping here for the considerable future now.

“There’s a great playing surface, all the players like it so things are looking really good.

“It’s just a fantastic club to be involved with, a great place to work and I can only see it getting bigger and stronger.”

Whilst it’s a job he enjoys, the maintenance at Grasshoppers doesn’t happen with the click of a finger.

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Credit: George Hodgson

“It needs brushing twice a week, litter needs picking up and there’s football clubs that play on it too, so over the year there’s probably around seven hours maintenance required a week.

“The pitch, the car parking, the facilities are so much better now and the club is a lot busier too as it’s a multi-sport club now too.

“We host cricket, archery, football, shooting and cycling, whereas when I started here 25-years ago it was purely rugby.”