WHILE Sergio Aguero & co were lapping up the adulation for their part in ending Manchester City’s 44-year wait to be crowned champions of England, Blackburn’s Luke Dodge was playing a more low key role in their historic triumph.
The 23-year-old from Ewood might not be recognised by the City faithful – and never mentioned in the same sentence as the highly-paid superstars – but his contribution behind the scenes to their Premier League success should not be underestimated.
Dodge, the assistant groundsman at The Etihad Stadium, has now been recognised for his efforts after been named the Institute of Groundsmanship Young Groundsman of the Year.
He received the award at the ‘Oscar-style’ IOG Awards Ceremony, held at York racecourse.
Attended by more than 350 of the UK’s and Europe’s leading groundscare experts from both the professional and volunteer sectors, as well as dignitaries from the governing bodies of sport and influential sports administrators.
He said: “When I found I was nominated for the award I was a bit shocked as I didn’t know my manager was planning to nominate me.
“I was very surprised to win the award and being up against a fellow work colleague was something unusual as well, and I felt very privileged to pick up the award.
“Winning this award will most definitely benefit me in the future as it is a great achievement to put on to my CV.
“Along with this, winning the award opens avenues for me to make more contacts within the industry the main ones at the moment being people within the IOG and the chance to join the IOG’s young board.”
Dodge, who works full time as an assistant groundsman for City while studying online towards a Foundation Degree in sportsturf management with Myerscough College, has also been handed a place on the IOG Young Board.
That was set up in order for the industry to engage with young people, from school level upwards, in the hope of showcasing what the industry has to offer, and making a younger audience aware of the career opportunities in the industry.
He started his career by working a placement at Blackburn Golf Club, near to his home in Ewood.
After leaving the greens, he secured a full-time position at Blackburn Rovers Football Club, the team he has supported all his life.
The club then enrolled Luke on an advanced apprenticeship in sportsturf with Myerscough College, which was completed in 2006.
Fast-forward to 2009 and he secured an Assistant Groundsman position with Manchester City, where he remains today, splitting his time between working at the club’s training ground and home venue, the Etihad Stadium, at Sportscity in Manchester.
In 2010, he decided to continue his education by enrolling on the Foundation Degree (FdSc) in Sportsturf, choosing the online study option to allow him to remain working with Manchester City on a full-time basis.
He said: “I got in to groundsmanship as part of my work experience, I was looking for a placement and one of my teachers was a member of Blackburn Golf Club who invited me to complete my placement there.
“From there I went on to join Blackburn Rovers FC when I left school and started my apprenticeship.
“This career was something that I did not know about let alone wanted to be part of, and honestly fell in to it after my work experience at Blackburn golf club.
“Once I joined Blackburn Rovers FC they started me on an apprenticeship with Myerscough College. It gave valuable basic skills for me to build upon at my place of work.
“An apprenticeship started to get my brain thinking of further skills and knowledge could try and pick up and learn from. Even though I completed the apprenticeship in 2006 the basic skills picked up then will stay with me on a daily basis throughout my career. “
Luke’s tutor at Myerscough College, Dr Andy Owen, said: “Everyone at Myerscough is proud of Luke for winning this prestigious award.
“He sets a positive example to those entering or thinking about entering the industry, and I’m positive he will go on and do great things in the future. He is bright and articulate young man and shows what a bright future our industry has.
“I feel proud that our online study option allows young people like Luke to continue their studies while working full-time.”