GROUNDSMAN Colin James hopes severe waterlogging at Brisbane Road is a thing of the past.

He described the damage done by standing water on the pitch last Christmas as 'heartbreaking'.

The duties of the job are taken very seriously by groundsmen like Colin, so he was mortified when disaster struck at Orient.

The bad weather and crumbling drains turned the turf into mud, and Colin had to cope with the scars.

Sections of the pitch were damaged as well.

“You take time to prepare the pitch and get it right, but the water comes in and you cannot do much about it,” Colin said.

“The drainage was 20 years old so we had a lot of problems and a very bad winter last year.

“The west side and south stand suffered a lot because water was not draining away, as the drains had collapsed.

“It was heartbreaking to see.”

Now Colin, 39, has commissioned more than £50,000 of work to install a new drainage system and re-lay the pitch.

It means that fans and players should be treated to a prinstine chessboard of a pitch at the first home game in August.

It also means water should no longer gather at the lowest point on the pitch, at the south-west corner.

But whether anybody will notice his work is part of a groundsman’s lot That is because the contribution they make to the occasion of a match seems inversely proportional to the attention it gets.

In contrast, a striker can vanish for 89 minutes, remateralise to scramble a goal in extra-time, and be a hero.

Meanwhile, the groundsman watches his work trampled upon, quite literally.

“I stand there watching a game, and you do cringe when a player goes sliding in, or when they’re celebrating a goal and slide along, leaving two tracks behind them along the ground,” said Colin.

“Those things can ruin a pattern. They get to you a bit, but it’s nice when people compliment the pitch when they don’t know you’re the groundsman.”

He is on watch before and after every game, as well.

“Nowadays there are five substitutes which means more trouble with the warm-down afterwards and in the warm-up. It’s all extra wear and tear.

“The rules say warm-ups and warm-downs can only happen inside a certain time.

“You grab a coach to tell them that, but some do go out and do what they want,” said Colin.

Meanwhile, referees rarely book keepers who rake a line on the six-yard line as a positional marker.

“That counts as an illegal marking and the keeper can get booked. But I’ve only ever seen that happen once. I find (lines) them a lot,” said Colin.

“People ask me if I just cut the grass. I cut it every day, and I’m out there on the pitch diveting for hours after a game.

“You work anti-social hours because you need to get out there and do the right thing, or it will catch up with you soon enough.

“I have a lot of pride and passion for my job. You have to take pride in what you do, or you cannot be a groundsman.“ Colin said: “Whenever I’m back home on a Saturday and watching the highlights with my boy, he will ask ‘did you see that goal?’.

“And I didn’t, because I was looking at the pitch.”

Groundsmen, the unlikely, unsung heroes of modern football?

This writer shall not be treating a ‘keep off the grass’ sign in the same way again.