He’s there long before most people arrive for a match and is still working when others are out on the town enjoying their Saturday night - welcome to the kitman’s 12 hour matchday schedule.
Tony Clark, or TC as he is known around the club, is like many people working behind the scenes at their local non-league football club - putting in countless hours that a lot of people don’t see to ensure things run smoothly on matchdays.
His day will start at around 11am on a Saturday and won’t finish until 10pm or 11pm in the evening, depending on when up to ten loads of kit have been washed, dried and put away.
And don’t forget the midweek work a kit man has to put in - whether it is a midweek fixture or coming in to set up the home dressing room for a Saturday game, something that takes Tony an hour and a half to complete such are the high standards he sets with his work.
Those high standards match the ambitions of the club he works for and the level of work TC produces you won’t find at too many clubs outside of the National League level.
Tony’s role has become a vital part of the off field work and facilities at AFC Portchester which makes the club almost unrivalled off the pitch at this level of non league football.
And it plays a key role in attracting the players the Royals hope will take them up the non league pyramid system.
Tony explained: “This club is National League standard in terms of its facilities behind the scenes and you can see things are set up to move to that level and we are not far away from doing that.
“The footballers at the club have everything provided for them to be able to go out and achieve that aim on the pitch.
“What we do on the kit side of things sells the club to players coming in. They will come in and view the set up we have and the higher standards we set. From the off we show new players around so they can see what we do.
“Portchester is a very, very professionally run club thanks to the chairman and the board here. National South football is the club’s aim so in the roles we have at the club we must do what we can to help hit that target.”
A lot of hard work and hours goes into making sure the high standards Tony has introduced to the kit room are maintained at that level.
Over 500 items of kit and equipment are being used by the players of the first team and reserves at any one time - including their kit on matchdays, tracksuits, training wear and towels provided for them with the club badge on.
And this is before we reach the winter months when sweatshirts, wet weather gear and coats will be added to the list of matchday wear requirements.
“It will take me around one and a half hours to set up the dressing room for a home game,” said Tony. “The set up includes the kit, fluids and sweets and other equipment.
“I always do this one or two days before a home game as this ensures everything is set up right and if you forget anything you have time to correct what’s missing.
“In the kit room we have three tumble driers and two washing machines. During the week I can spend six to seven hours here sorting kit.
“For an away game we will travel two hours ahead of the team, so I will set out by 11.30am to arrive at the ground to set up the dressing room.
“When the players walk in at 1.30pm on an away day everything is ready to go for them.”
Tony’s hectic schedule for a Saturday home game is as follows:
11am: Arrive at ground and make sure all balls are pumped up properly and every bit of kit is in the right place. Then make sure the bibs, cones, sub shirts and the dug out is set up ready to go for the pre-match warm up and the match itself.
1pm: Time for lunch and watch the players arrive for the game.
2pm; After the players come in from their warm up, make sure all the bibs, balls and equipment are collected in and warm up tops are gathered up to be put in the washing machine during the first half of the game. These are then transferred to the tumble drier at half time - the first bit of kit washing for the day.
During the game: Make sure water bottles are topped up and subs board is operated when needed.
5pm: Collect in all of the kit from the game and then start loading it into the washing machines. There are eight to ten loads of washing needing to be done after each match and home time won’t come until between 10pm and 11pm once all kit has been dried and hung up. This allows Tony to have a Sunday off with the family.
And are there any special secrets the kitman has in terms of what he uses to ensure the kit is fresh and clean after each match?
“No special ingredients for washing - I use just normal washing powder,” added Tony.
“But my secret ingredient for badly stained kit is Vanish. I’ll put some in a bucket with the kit and soak it for a while and then give the item a scrub before it goes into the machine.
“The key to this job is to stay on top of things otherwise it can very quickly go wrong on the day - I never go home until the kit is washed, dried and hung up.”