THE nation's best - that's North Yorkshire groundsman extraordinaire Joe Wilson.

Tockwith Football Club's wizard of the turf was crowned groundsman of the year in special awards announced by the Football Association to recognise the excellence of the men and women who ready the country's footballing thrilling fields.

Wilson was presented with his award for the step seven and below leagues' category - that is, all local football grounds and pitches across England - by former England and West Ham United midfield legend Sir Trevor Brooking, now the FA's director of football development, at a special ceremony at Windsor racecourse.

It was a moment the 59-year-old Wilson confessed will treasure long in his memory and it capped a remarkable double for the sprightly man of the earth in his 60th year.

For Wilson, who has been connected with Tockwith FC for more than four decades, got married in July to Melanie, his partner for the last 19 years.

He enthused: "It's been a fantastic year for me, what with getting married and now winning this national award. I was fourth nationally last year, so I'm delighted to have come first in the country. It's a big honour."

In tandem with being fourth country-wide last year, Wilson was the North's top groundsman after being nominated by the North Riding County FA, whose chief executive Tom Radigan was thrilled by the national award.

"Joe is a deserved winner and we are absolutely delighted, not only because of the success of Tockwith FC and the York and District FA, but also it is obviously a great fillip for the NRCFA to have a club groundsman honoured in this way."

But there's to be no let up for Wilson, who was a 15-year-old when he first started playing for Tockwith and for whom he has been groundsman for the last 27 years.

He told the Press that Tockwith FC, who play in the Leeper Hare York and District League, have a new junior pitch this season for teams to play in the British Sugar York and District Minor League.

And the new pitch will be accorded the same loving care and diligence to the senior surface, which Wilson can recall from his earliest days associated with football in the village, having to have bullock dirt scraped off when animals grazed on it.

Asked what the secret of being a good groundsman was, Wilson declared: "It's all to do with the effort and time you put in."

Tockwith will be hoping those qualities will remain in harness for many years to come.