Longtime Arsenal FC Head Groundsman, Steve Braddock, passed recently following a long illness. He was 58 years old.
According to Arsenal.com, Braddock joined the club in August 1987, after a chance meeting with George Graham (former Arsenal manager), who informed him that the club was looking for a new lead to be responsible for the pitch at Highbury. After getting the job, he set about creating a playing surface at Highbury that would be the envy of the footballing world – and he achieved exactly that.
His skill and passion for groundskeeping earned him many individual accolades: numerous Premier League Pitch of the Season awards, “Turf’s Top Influencer” in 2019, and in 2020 he became only the second person in history to enter the Grounds Management Association’s Hall of Fame.
According to Arsenal.com any awards that came Braddock’s way would be met with a self-effacing shrug followed by a few words praising those who allowed him to continue with his work at Arsenal and how wonderfully talented the next generation of young groundskeepers he mentored were.
Steve ensured the Highbury pitch was perfection for our final season at the stadium, but by then his role as Head Groundsman saw him dedicate most of his time to the 11 pitches at London Colney. Ensuring the pristine surfaces the players trained on during the week were an exact match for those they played on at the weekend.
His dedication to the Arsenal pitches was truly remarkable – every Arsenal colleague who knew Steve well has a story to tell about the great lengths he would go to guarantee the pitches could be at their very best.
Always keen to discuss ideas with grounds teams from a whole range of sports, he knew that researching and embracing the latest technology and methodology could be beneficial to his playing surfaces and to those who worked alongside him. He was also passionate about finding sustainable solutions through groundskeeping.
Not only was Steve a truly great groundsman, he was also a wonderful teacher and mentor. Many groundskeepers Steve has developed at the club over 30 years have progressed to the very pinnacle of their profession – all educated and still inspired by the best in the business.
And Steve’s mentor? He always said that after losing his parents at a young age, Arsene Wenger became a father figure and the pair enjoyed a wonderfully productive relationship, remaining very close until the end of Steve’s life.
Braddock once said that when he went to his first ever match at Highbury as a boy, the one image that stuck in his memory wasn’t the players, or the crowd, but “the beautiful grass.”
In its statement, Arsenal said, “Steve dedicated his life to making sure our grass was always beautiful, for which we are eternally grateful. Our thoughts are with Steve’s wife Shuk, their daughters Jasmine and Lily, Steve’s sisters Janice and Susan, and all Steve’s family and friends.”
Richard Campey of Campey Turf Care Systems issued a statement about Braddock.
“I have known Steve a very long time, after we met at London Colney,” said Campey. “He became a close friend, and we shared the same drive and interest in maintaining natural surfaces for sport. Steve was always willing to try out new methods and machinery ahead of their time. You always knew where you stood with him. He was a true gentleman and never wavered in the pursuit of perfection for his sports pitches, and was an advocate for the highest standards for the industry as a whole. He will be greatly missed.”