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Former Derby County groundsman, Bob Smith, has received the IOG Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Syngenta and ICL (formerly Everris).

When Bob Smith took over at the Baseball Ground, then home for Derby County FC, in 1967, was told that: 'if he still had a blade of grass on the pitch at the end of August it would be considered a success', and the season didn't start until September!

However, implementing the sound lessons and plant science agronomy he'd learned as a nurseryman with CWS (The Co-Operative) and at the British Rail Cricket Ground, Bob tackled the challenges of the heavy soil, site and a legacy of poor drainage.

The Baseball Ground became legendary as Derby County moved up through the leagues, and the home of notable successes in domestic and European cup football. When Derby County topped the First Division in 1971/72, then manager, Brian Clough, said that Bob: "deserved a winners' medal, just as much as any of the players."

It was in an era when winter pitches - and the football they produced - was a different spectacle. On one famous occasion, during a televised match against Manchester City, Bob was called upon in the middle of the game to repaint the penalty spot, which had been lost in the sea of mud. 

The IOG Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Bob Smith by Caroline Carroll of Syngenta and Ed Carter of ICL (formerly Everris), joint sponsors of the IOG Award.

Subsequently, Bob was the first groundsman in the UK to have a purpose-built sand construction pitch, the precursor to most of the pitches today. He was also the first to have pop-up sprinklers, and first to use a pure Ryegrass sward. His experience in successfully pioneering these techniques put him in high demand when he left the Baseball Ground and set up his own sports turf management company.

Whilst the Baseball Ground has long gone - demolished in 2003 when the club moved to Pride Park (latterly renamed the iPro Stadium) - Bob has remained an active stalwart of the IOG, and its support for groundsmen and the industry.

With a career that has adopted so much innovation to improve pitch management, and shared his experiences to enhance the professionalism of all groundsmen, it is extremely fitting that Bob, now aged 72, should receive the IOG Lifetime Achievement Award.

Click here for full details of the IOG Awards winners and presentations