John Ledwidge has found a perfect match - and the job he's always dreamt of. He spoke to Jill Parkin.
John Ledwidge is a very happy young man - because he now has the job of his dreams. In fact, his heart leaps every time he hears the theme tune to Match of the Day.
"A good pitch is perfection, green perfection," says John, who at 19 is assistant head groundsman for Coventry City FC.
"I work outdoors, I earn my own money and I'm doing the job I've wanted to do since I was 13. To me, that's a good life."
John left Bishop Ullathorne school in Coventry at 16 with 10 GCSEs - three A grades and seven B grades - and the voice of a careers adviser ringing in his ears.
"I was told I could do A-levels and university, but that wasn't for me," says John. "I went along to Warwickshire college and enrolled on the NVQ level 2 in sports turf management instead. Now I'm doing level 3 - I should finish in May."
John, a lifelong Coventry City supporter, always wondered what went on behind the scenes. When he was 13, he wrote to his favourite club to ask if he could visit. The club agreed and John fell in love with the pitch, did his work experience there and then started to give regular assistance to the groundsman.
Three years on, at 16, John's weeks were split to allow him four days at Coventry City and one day at Warwickshire college on a work-based apprenticeship. Last year, he won the college's Greenkeeper's Award, which is usually awarded to a golf-course trainee. Now he maintains the Ryton training ground, where there are two pitches, and deputises at the main ground at Highfield Road.
"At pound;75 a week in my first year, I didn't have a lot to spare," says John. "But I was living at home rent-free and I managed to save up enough in the year to put a car on the road and pass my driving test.
"Now I'm paying rent and supporting myself. You grow up much faster if you go straight to work.
"I never have those days when you wake up and think, 'Oh no, I've got to go to work.' I wake up and think, 'Wow!' And when I watch Match of the Day and see the pitch, it's great to think I've had a part in that."