Move over Jim Dawson there’s a new award-winning groundskeeper in town... but working 2000km away in Spain!
John Stewart, from Laurieston, has been named the best groundsman in Spanish football in the year 2019 for his work on Deportivo Alaves’ Mendizorrotza Stadium pitch.
The 49-year-old was presented with his award and trophy at the annual La Liga greenkeeper’s dinner in Madrid last week, becoming the latest local sport and horticulture award winner after Falkirk’s Jim.
Co-incidentally both met last month in Portugal and talked over Dawson’s current pitch at Murrayfield and John’s Alaves area and Ibaia training ground he tends.
He told The Falkirk Herald: “It’s fantastic to receive an award from people who know what they’re talking about and what you are going through.
“The preparation to a pitch is what’s key. We can cut it six times and line it two or three before a match – but there is a lot of pressure.
“You are dealing with a living thing and aspects outwith your control like the weather can affect it.
“It was a lovely surprise to receive the award and it’s surreal too. I was interviewed about it on the pitch on Saturday standing beside Roberto Carlos. You do get up close to a lot of big names.”
John’s Spanish story began a lot further away though – on the greens and fairways of the golf course in America but he switched to football some ten years ago while in Spain. He took up the head green keeping role at Real Sociedad, later moving to Alaves, near his home in Vitoria which he shares with wife Maria and their two children.
Before moving away, John and his brothers Colin and Tom, were members of Wallacestone Pipe Band. Their father, also Tom – a retired local police officer – said the “whole family are immensely proud of what John has achieved”.
Back home John also worked six months on the Falkirk Tryst course. While in America tutoring piping and working on the greens he befriended US Open winner Payne Stewart, playing the pipes at his memorial service and also at the funeral of Seve Ballesteros.
Piping continues to be a passion and John added: “Just after the game with Real Madrid on Saturday I had to dash away and play at a whisky tasting. It was quite a contrast.”