MASTER groundsman Malcolm Applin described as “quite a surprise” a decision to name a main home pitch after him.

Mr Applin was honoured by Milborne Sports in Milborne St Andrew to commemorate more than two decades of service, celebrating his 90th birthday in style.

Since the site was built in 2002, Mr Applin has worked tirelessly to transform the two playing surfaces from landfill sites to carpets of plush grass.

So good are the facilities at the Malcolm Applin Pitch, the likes of Southampton and Portsmouth have graced the Milborne turf, while the Dorset FA hold numerous cup finals there each season.

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Speaking to Echosport, the nonagenarian said: “It was quite a surprise.

“This is all down to Richard Lock, the chairman. It’s in recognition of all the years I’ve spent working out there.

“Everybody seems to want to come and play on it, but we can’t accommodate everybody because the pitch won’t stand it and I’d like to keep it in the condition it’s in now.”

In 2009, Mr Applin was named BBC South’s Sports Personality Unsung Hero and went through to the national final in Sheffield, only to be pipped by swimming instructor Doreen Adcock, from Milton Keynes.

It meant Dorset narrowly missed out on back-to-back Unsung Hero accolades after Dorchester boxing coach Ben Geyser scooped the award in 2008.

But Mr Applin is well worthy of his latest distinction, according to Lock.

“We’ve been told it’s the best pitch in Dorset,” he said.

“The status we’ve got from the Football Foundation is that it’s suitable for professional play.

“He has to maintain the pitch. He’s up there most days preparing the pitch, marking out the lines and after a match he repairs the pitch and he’s mowing. It’s a full-time job.”

Along with two Milborne Sports teams, the pitch is also home to Poole Town Ladies, Ridgeway Eagles Under-13s, Poole Schools Under-16s and East Dorset Schools Under-16s.

Dorset Premier League side Dorchester Sports also train at Milborne on occasion.

When he is not mowing the playing surface, Mr Applin is also involved in the upkeep of Milborne’s pavilion.

He decided to turn to pitch maintenance after tearing knee ligaments in 1957, preventing him from playing for Bere Regis on the right wing.

Mr Applin has not looked back since and he learned his craft by helping maintain AFC Bournemouth’s pitch at then-named Dean Court for a decade.

Mr Applin will be 91 in October and the former RAF serviceman is determined to carry on for as long as he can.

“Well, there’s nobody else that’s going to do it,” he said.

“How much longer I can carry on, I really don’t know. I’m down there most days doing different things.

“It’s taken quite a long time. When the pitch has been played on, I spend all my time getting it ready for the next game.

“Divots get kicked out and the pitch recently has been so soft, the heel marks are about four inches deep. You’ve got to stick your fork in a raise the pitch back up.

“I don’t let them play on it when it’s like it is, the chairman doesn’t like it!”

However, despite Mr Applin’s best efforts, results on the pitch have not translated to points.

Milborne’s first team only picked up their first win of the season on Saturday at the 18th and final attempt, beating Maiden Newton & Cattistock Reserves 5-1.

Milborne consequently finished bottom of Dorset League Division Four, but so long as Applin prepares the pitch to the highest standard, Sports will always have the chance to improve.