Wing and a prayer to protect Fleetwood Town pitch

Apprentice groundsman Ash Roche at work on the pitch at Fleetwood Town's Highbury stadium, under the eyes of the plastic owls used to keep the pigeons away from the pitch.
Apprentice groundsman Ash Roche at work on the pitch at Fleetwood Town's Highbury stadium, under the eyes of the plastic owls used to keep the pigeons away from the pitch.
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Fleetwood Town groundsman Dale Frith is a man who takes his turf very seriously.

But, you’ve got to admit, his latest scheme to protect the hallowed Highbury pitch is a real hoot.

Town’s grass guru has come up with a novel solution to the problem of pigeons making off with his precious grass seed – rather than fighting fire with fire, he’s fighting feather with feather.

Plastic owls have been hung over the pitch in a bid to keep the flying fellons at bay – an idea adapted from the efforts of other clubs.

“We do have a problem with pigeons,” admitted Dale.

“We don’t want them roosting in the stands and they are a problem when you’ve got seed on the surface, it needs time to germinate.

“I’d seen at other clubs they used plastic birds of prey to keep the pigeons out of the stands.

“We thought we’d try this.

“When the wind was blowing and they were swinging it did look quite good.

“But I don’t think we’ve got the problem beaten quite yet.”

Town’s groundstaff came up with the owl plan having looked into other methods of bird control around their Highbury home.

“We could have used a hawk but there’s cost to doing that,” said Frith.

It was a short-lived idea which caused a commotion among another native bird population.

Dale said: “We did bring one it at the end of last season.

“It scared the pigeons off, right enough, but the gulls went mental. We must have had hundreds of them.”

Some of those gulls have made their home at Highbury, bringing problems of their own.

“They’re nesting behind the Percy Ronson Stand.” said Dale.

“You don’t want to go back there on your own, they get very defensive.”

Despite his battle with the local birdlife, Dale is pleased with how his Highbury surface has turned out ahead of the club’s first home game on Saturday - Nathan Pond’s testimonial match against Preston North End.

“It’s looking good,” he said.

“There are one or two patches but all in all I think we’re ready.”