THERE is something about a perfectly manicured pitch - the luscious shade of deep green and a springy surface - that makes you yearn to grab a ball and start bending free-kicks Beckham-style into imaginary nets.
As York City manager Nigel Worthington succinctly puts it: “They invite you on”.
You have to resist the urge to join in with the rest of the lads on a trip to the Minstermen’s Wigginton Road training ground these days.
There, every blade of grass looks so pristine, you’re begging for a stray shot to come your way so you’ve got an excuse to don shin pads and send a ‘tester’ at goalkeeper Jason Mooney.
It wasn’t always like this.
Not so long ago, a few hot days could turn the first-team pitch into a bone-jarring, skin-ripping dust bowl. A few days of rain and you would go out in waders and with a paddle.
Over the last 18 months much has changed. Some of it has been subtle work. Like the irrigation on the pitches to improve drainage and how it copes with extremes of weather.
Other things, like the new viewing area, offices and gym that have sprung up, are much more high-profile.
Worthington, modestly, won’t take any of the credit for the changes - preferring to highlight the work City chairman Jason McGill has done in embracing his vision and, importantly, putting his hand in his pocket to pay for it.
What the Minstermen chief did see, though, on his first visit to the 18-acre site before he was unveiled as the club’s League saviour back in March 2013, was what it could become.
And he is thrilled that there has been such a collective will to try to make the facility one of the best in the Football League.
“The pitches and the whole training ground are starting to look like a proper football training ground in my eyes,” he explained.
“We have got 18 acres of countryside. We are tucked away from the view of anybody - the main road, the noise of the city. It is a fantastic environment. I could see the potential here the moment I drove into it.
“It just needed managing, a little bit of TLC and some money spent on it. The chairman has done what he wanted to do but also what I could see would help the training ground.
“He has put his hand in his pocket to make it a better place for the academy and a better place for the professionals.
“When we bring players to come and sign for the club, the training ground - where you spend probably 85 to 90 per cent of your time over the course of the season - actually invites them on to the pitches.
“It’s a place where you feel like training, where you want to train.
“There’s irrigation in hot weather so the pitches are lovely and soft. There’s drainage for when it is really wet. There’s a lot of plusses, for a club of this size, that a lot of other clubs at this level certainly haven’t got.”
He continued: “It’s a huge thing to know you are going to be able to play on a nice surface, that you are going to be able to get the work done that you need to do and I’ve got to give credit to the new head groundsman Chris Stirk.
“He has come in and has got fantastic knowledge, a fantastic work ethic and, between him Wayne (Simpson) and Kevin (Russell), the three of them are making things happen through his guidance.
“We’ve tried to help make the club a better place to work - with the stadium pitch, the training ground - and the chairman has embraced that. He has invested in it. You can now see the fruits of that.
“We’ve now got the irrigation system on the two first team pitches, which is fantastic. There’s a comfortable viewing room so when it is cold the parents can come down and stand and watch and have a cup of tea.
“It the shows you how the club has grown in the last 18 months and, to me and the football club, we have got a fantastic site here to work from. It’s about making it better and the chairman has bought into that.”
The most visible part of the developments is that new viewing platform - a glass-fronted room that will give parents a warm place to watch their youngsters on academy nights during the winter months.
It may be also be a sanctuary for managers.
“Steve Torpey and I have discussed this,” Worthington joked. “Steve agrees with me that I can sit in there and watch him coach. I’ll have a cup of tea and every now and then I’ll just open the door and shout ‘Steve, you’re doing that wrong’ and just adjust it a little bit.
“He’s well on side with that and it will be good fun to watch.”
Worthington is now the custodian of a legacy - feeling a sense of duty to ensure the improved training ground can be a benefit to York City for years to come.
He said: “I think it is an excellent piece of ground to work with. If we all take a bit of pride and care and look after it, individually and collectively, this football club will have one of the best training grounds - whether it is League Two, One, Championship, wherever it finishes up. It will be top-class.”
Top man Lowe up for re-run
KEITH LOWE picked up where he left off as the new race to be The Press Player of the Year got under way.
The talismanic central defender won last year’s competition and kicked off his defence in the best possible fashion with a man of the match performance in York’s League Two opener at Tranmere last Saturday.
His second-half header remains the Minstermen’s only goal from their first week of action and his exploits have put him in the frame for the first Player of the Month gong.
But he is one of a trio of players tied at the top of the standings at this early stage.
Anthony Straker’s wonderful wing play against Doncaster saw him take the man of the match honours in the Capital One Cup game on Tuesday night, while Michael Coulson picked up one point - as our third-highest rated player at Tranmere - and two, for runner-up honours, at Bootham Crescent to join Straker and Lowe at the summit.
Minor honours also went to John McCombe (two points at Tranmere) and skipper Russell Penn (a point against Doncaster).
To be in with a chance of presenting The Press Player of the Month for August with a framed photograph at Bootham Crescent, vote for your man of the match from today’s game against Northampton and Tuesday’s clash with Cambridge or by tweeting @scarrollpress The Press Player of the Month for August: Lowe 3, Straker 3, Coulson 3, McCombe 2, Penn 1, Goals: Lowe 1.
Assists: Meikle 1.
Bad boys: Penn, one yellow.