Published: 06:00, 22 July 2021
Ernie Batten says he shed a few tears when Sheppey dug up their grass pitch at Holm Park.
The Ites boss is fully behind the club’s decision to switch to 3G but he’ll miss their natural grass pitch which was laid just six years ago at a cost of £100,000.
Hailed as a Championship-standard surface when it was installed in 2015, Sheppey took the pitch up earlier this summer, with their 3G nearing completion.
The community benefits of 3G make it the way forward for ambitious non-league clubs, such as the Ites.
Batten said: “It doesn’t get better than a lush grass pitch but, in terms of a business model, 3G is a no-brainer.
“You can’t do anything with grass. It’s fine all the time you’ve only got your first team playing on it but we had the under-23s and the under-18s on there last season as well.
“Our pitch was like a fine-tuned Ferrari, you’ve got to stay on top of maintaining it or it starts to suffer. We had it laid by the same firm who did Southampton’s pitch.
“I shed a few tears when it came up, it was very sad, but you can’t move on with that.
“For non-league clubs, if you can finance it, 3G is the way forward. It’s a complete game-changer, because it can be in use 24/7.
“We can have all the youth teams on there, we can hire it out, and people will be using the facilities at the ground. It’s the way to go, and we’ve got the best 3G available, a Champions League pitch which is lush and thick.”
Sheppey have a secret weapon up their sleeves to help the 3G play like natural grass.
Batten said: “We’ve retained our pop-up sprinklers at the perimeter of the pitch, which means we’ll be able to slick it up.
“When 3G is dry the ball can check when it bounces but ours will be very realistic in terms of how it plays.
“We get a lot of rain in winter anyway but the fact we can add water to the pitch when it’s dry is fantastic.”