Oldham Athletic head groundsman Dean Pickering says he and his team are experiencing one of the most arduous summers he has known, largely because of the weather.

As well as the usual close season work on the Boundary Park pitch, Latics have undertaken a big pitch renovation project at their Chapel Road training ground ahead of the new 2024/25 campaign, leading to the ground staff working seven days a week to get it finished ahead of the players reporting back for pre-season before the end of the month, and the launch of the women's and girls teams and new BTech programme.

But their progress has been hindered by a lack of sun and persistent rain.

"I've not known a summer like this. Last year we carried straight through. This year it's not just been wet but cold as well. And I think this is the new normal for us, which worries me," said Pickering.

"We're probably 10 days to two weeks behind where we want to be because of the weather. Everything's stood still. A week of sun and I'll be happy."

But Pickering has no complaints about the workload because of what it will mean for manager Micky Mellon and the first team, and the club as a whole.

"Chapel Road is the team's preparation. Every day they're there, every day they are on the training pitch and the training pitches are important, crucial to what Micky wants and it's what every team needs.

"Our workload's increasing with the ladies' team, BTech programme and the first team up there as well. But more teams means bigger investment, and for the ground team it's unbelievable.

"We're having better renovations now than we were when we were in League One. The money they're investing in us as a team is unbelievable.

"But we're working round the clock. It is relentless. We've had one week off this summer each, taking alternate weeks.

"It's seven days a week at the moment. The pitches need cutting every day. Weekends it's only three hours but it's seven days a week. Monday to Friday you're working 8am til 5-5.30pm. Normal days obviously, but it's non-stop.

"We have a month to two months to get everything done.

"It's a quicker turnaround this year because Oldham RLFC have a game on June 30."

Readying the pitch for rugby league has been another learning curve for Pickering, who is more commonly known as Junior.

"It's a new sport to me so I had to google how to micro-pitch it. I didn't have a clue about the game or how it worked," he said.

"In terms of workload it's unrelatable. In terms of pitch use, for the first year, I think it's held up pretty well. I'm really happy with how it came out.

"We just lost grass last year, we had the stability and the water movement but we just lost grass growth.

"What the pitch guarantees you is stability and ball roll. The ball will always roll well, grass or no grass."

Twelve months on from the new £1million Desso Grassmaster pitch being installed, Pickering hopes the grass will be even greener this year, both at Boundary Park and at the training ground.

"Investment wise it's been better than other years but in terms of work-load it's been the most stressful one ever; a lot more than last year even with the renovation," he added.

"That was the best renovation we'd had for 10 years, this year we've beaten that again with irrigation of the Chapel Road pitches as well as the maintenance at Boundary Park.

"All the vegetation was dug off it, trenches got trenched out for irrigation, new seed and new sand aeration and then it was watered and fertilised.

"We've had to invest more money into it because the ladies' team will be playing on pitch two. At the moment that's their home ground for next season.

"There are two pitches so it consumes more than what you would think.

"We've installed irrigation of pitch one and given it a good standard of renovation that you'd expect at any club with a decent ground."