From work experience at the Oval to the best in the world

2 years |

From work experience at the Oval to the best in the world

Next in Living Away Cultural Connections: From Northern Ireland to New York

You have probably never heard of Jonathan Calderwood, but he’s one of the most sought after men in world football…well sort of.

He doesn’t play, coach or even manage but his work is taking centre stage at the Euros this summer.

Jonathan Calderwood from Clough in County Antrim is the head groundsman at one of the tournaments biggest grounds – the Parc de Princes in Paris.

It also happens to be the location for Northern Ireland’s historic final group game against world champions Germany. 

As well as being a grounds keeper, Jonathan is a big football fan so it’s fair to say he’s excited and has been looking forward to it for a while.

‘For me to move to Paris and for Northern Ireland to end up playing Germany on my pitch…it doesn’t get any better than that. It’s like a dream come true.’

While half of Northern Ireland seem to have travelled to France this summer, Jonathan arrived there much earlier and his journey is an interesting one, as he told BBC Sport Northern Ireland earlier this year.

“I went to Ballee Community High School in Ballymena and in your last year you had to do a week work experience. Being a football fanatic and a big Glentoran fan it seemed only right that I should maybe go there and see if they would take me as a groundsman at the Oval for a week.”

Having honed his skills in the Irish League, Jonathan’s expertise was destined for bigger things.

He arrived there in 2002 with Aston Villa, twice winning Premier League groundsman of the year – an achievement that he’s extremely proud of.

“Premier League pitches in England are known to be the best pitch in the world. So normally if you’ve won the best pitch in England means you’ve got the best pitch in the world.”


The reputation Johnathan built for himself in the Premier League is ultimately what took him to Paris.

Former Aston Villa manager, Gerard Houllier saw his work at first hand and recommended him to French club, Paris Saint Germain in 2011 describing him as ‘the best groundsman in the world.’

It looks like the best groundsman in the world will have the best seat in the house for one of the biggest Northern Ireland games in recent history.  

If you know any Northern Irish diaspora doing incredible things then let us know.

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