By Kevin Westlake.
As I grew older at Beacon Park, the weight of responsibility seemed to grow too, by the age of 6, I was a Ball-boy with the club, by the age of 14 I was helping the groundsman keep up with the arduous weekly routine of maintenance and preparation for the following Saturday.
The groundsman at this point was a lovely fellow named Bob Dawe. Bob was a tiny man with a heart of gold. He always put 100% into ensuring the pitch was in tip-top condition and that the many broken fixtures and fittings remained in service.
Bob liked to work alone, so when I turned up to “help”, he usually gave me a paintbrush and told me to get on with it. This brings me to my next story.
Many of you will remember the main grandstand. It was a large, imposing steel and wooden structure with two staircases, many bench-style seats and the press-box to the rear. On this particular day, I had been given the responsibility of painting the metal railings on the two stairways. I had been given the “Albion stock” of green, gloss paint, but to make it interesting, I slipped into the maintenance hut and stole the red and white paint too, along with four or five large paintbrushes.
As with most jobs at Albion, I started with enthusiasm and a sense of pride. My paintwork was going to be one of the first things people would see on Saturday when the season opened!!
As with most jobs at Albion, I soon got bored and started looking for more interesting and alternative challenges, something more worthy of my lacking skillset. I soon found a challenge!!
The week before, a team of the “distinguished” folk, including the legendary Les McCoy, used the last remaining creosote to coat the benches in the Grandstand, the benches looked as good as new, and Les and his team had done a wonderful job. But dark brown??? That’s not an Albion colour, is it?
As I slapped the paint on the staircase uprights, I began to picture the grandstand in all of its cherry, green and white glory. How cool would it look if the benches were in Albion colours too?
So, as my confidence in the idea grew, I hid behind the advertising hoarding and started a small, 10-metre test-patch in resplendent green. I was surprised it hadn’t taken that long to complete, but the overall result was not brilliant. This forced me into a quick second coat, and then a third. So, I slapped the green paint around and even started on the back supports. Soon, I had completed the first five rows but was running low on green paint.
I then moved on to the red paint. The same system followed, with a first coat which looked rubbish, followed by a second and third coat, slapping gloss onto the pre-treated wood and hoping for the best. Once again, the red paint soon diminished, so the white followed with the same vigour!!
Bob, the groundsman was line-marking the pitch, ready for Saturday (this was always done on a Thursday), and here starts the problem.
For those in the know, the first five rows of any spectator stand are usually reserved for the “important” people, like sponsors, chairmen and guests, away team officials etc. These rows were reserved for VPs and Life Members.
I walked to the middle of the pitch to admire my handy work and to get Bob’s approval… the job looked brilliant, so I asked Bob for more paint… he asked why I would need more, surely 5 litres of green was more than enough? He looked up, and the usual happy tone of his face changed to one
of pure horror. “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?”, he said in a slightly irate tone. I’ve made the grandstand more corporate I said, doesn’t it look fantastic? Bob didn’t reply, but instead, went to his storeroom, made a cup of tea and pretty much hid for the rest of the day.
Saturday arrived, with much anticipation… the first league game of the season (opponents unknown), but what I do know is that the grandstand was packed. The stands on both sides of the pitch were full, and the “important” people had come out in force to herald the start of the new season.
The flags were up, the post protectors duly cleaned and installed, the ground swept and the players ready… the stand filled up. I went about my usual business of causing mayhem and trying to help out. I went to the grandstand to try to earwig the comments about how good the benching looked, but to my astonishment, people were NOT happy.
I need to point out, that I was not aware of what creosote did to gloss paint at the time, although, I have never made the same mistake again. Creosote, especially fresh creosote, limits the drying ability of gloss paint. Red and Green Gloss Paint do not dry quickly anyway, so as the game went on, many “important” people in blazers, Barbour coats, expensive trousers and the like started to notice the club colours appearing on their clothes.
The upshot? Another enquiry followed, the club had to make apologies to many people and had to offer to replace clothing, and Kevin Westlake had struck again.
Eventually, the remainder of the seating was painted in Albion colours, but only after the proper sanding and stripping of the creosote base.
Nowadays, Albion have the FAB team, a band of merry men who spend their spare time completing essential jobs around Brickfields – they never waiver, whether it’s painting, weeding, changing lamps or anything else that can be thrown at them. In this day and age, the work the FAB team do is rare, and as a club, Albion are exceptionally grateful for the time they give.
With the current situation, maintenance has been suspended at Brickfields, but once the “all-clear” claxon has been sounded, the club will need you. If you are able and willing – please get in touch with the club and offer your support – there are many jobs to complete in preparation for the 2020-21 season. For info, or to offer your support… Please email firstname.lastname@example.org