Steve Braddock 1964 – 2022
Born on 6 February 1964 in Hatfield, Steve was one of the most influential football groundsmen in the country, if not the most influential.
An Arsenal fan who, when taken to his first ever match at Highbury as a boy, remembered the beautiful grass, not the players or the crowd, but the green pitch of Highbury. Taken on at Highbury in August 1987 by George Graham, he set about his passion with a relish and had an astonishing dedication to Arsenal pitches.
A fundamental characteristic associated with the Premiership era which straddled both north London grounds was our pitch, or as it became known the carpet. Steve was a significant figure in the move from Highbury to The Emirates, making the training ground at Colney such a success. In this he worked very closely with Arsene Wenger, whom he perceived as a mentor, not just a work colleague and good friend.
He saw to it that the Highbury pitch was immaculate for the final 2005-06 campaign, but as the Arsenal website notes, by this time as Head Groundsman he was spending almost all his efforts on setting up the many pitches at London Colney. He was tasked with ensuring the 11 playing areas replicated as closely as possible the precise surface the players were exposed on match days.
Embracing the latest technology, he also looked to sustainability in the upkeep of the pitch, all of which allowed Arsenal to keep up with changes and ensured the pitches remained in pristine condition. Unsurprisingly, he gained industry awards; many Premier League Pitch of the season trophies, and the Turf’s top influencer of 2019. A year later he was only the second person to be welcomed into the Ground Management Association Hall of Fame.
As well as producing Arsenal pitches which were regarded as the pinnacle of the profession, he was heavily involved in teaching budding groundskeepers, and bringing out their talents who now work at grounds all over the world. At home and abroad there are many who owe their success to the wise counselling and tuition received from Steve Braddock.
Steve Braddock died on 19 August 2022, after a working lifetime of making sure our and his team played on grass which was always beautiful. The respect in which he was held was evident as Arsenal wore black armbands in his memory at Bournemouth on 20 August 2022.