Tony Bell
Middlesbrough\'s Tony Bell manages a team of five who oversee the Riverside pitch as well as the training pitches at Rockliffe Park.

Middlesbrough's Tony Bell has been crowned Championship Groundsman of the Year.

The Playing Surfaces Committee revealed the results after conducting tests across the Football League's 72 clubs. Bell, who has worked at Middlesbrough for 15 years, told the club's official Web site:

"We've been named in the top three in the past, but this is the first time we have won a divisional award outright.

"I'm really proud for the whole groundstaff team. The pitch has been used intensively this season and we've also had the England U-21 fixture to cope with.

"But we have worked hard to keep in good shape and it's great to be recognised this way."

The 48-year-old heads up a team of five who work five days a week, plus match days, to ensure the Riverside pitch is in excellent condition for play-off candidates Middlesbrough.

Boro Chief Executive Neil Bausor said: "Tony and his team work tirelessly, sometimes in very demanding weather conditions, to prepare the Riverside pitch and our many training and Academy pitches at Rockliffe Park.

"We are delighted that Tony and the efforts of all of his team have been recognised with such a prestigious award."

Groundsmen from lower league clubs were also awarded for their efforts, with David Mitchell of Carlisle United picking up back-to-back League One awards and Cheltenham Town's Terry Roberts winning the League Two crown.

The awards were determined using marks submitted by referees and away team managers to the ground staff at each home game, followed by a more detailed pitch inspection and a review of management operations.

Dr Stephen Baker, Head of Soils and Sports Surface Science at the Sports Turf Research Institue (STRI), carried out the tests in late March.

"The Groundsman of the Year Award is an opportunity to honour some of The Football League's unsung heroes and rightly recognises the efforts made by club groundsmen to prepare the best possible playing surfaces," John Nagle, Head of Communications at The Football League, said.

"It has been another tough season with some challenging weather conditions, however the quality of pitches across The League has been excellent."