Newcastle's Head Groundsman Bobby Discusses His Role!


11 January 2024

Not everyone gets to travel the distance of the earth’s circumference for a living. 

But Newcastle Greyhound Stadium’s Head Groundsman has done it twice – and he’s covered every yard at just four miles-per-hour. 

Robert ‘Bobby’ Salkeld ditched plans to become a mechanic as a fresh-faced teenager in 1990 and has worked at the Fossway venue ever since. 

He now leads a team of five dedicated ground staff who are preparing for one of the northeast’s most prestigious competitions – the Arena Racing Company Northern Puppy Derby – which concludes with a £12,500 Grand Final on Thursday, February 15.

Since working on his first fixture, Bobby has prepared the racing surface for more than 50,000 races and covered a staggering 49,212 miles in his tractor – the equivalent of driving the earth’s circumference twice. 

While the weather is a national obsession for much of the UK, Newcastle’s climate presents a full-time challenge for Bobby and his team. 

But after 33 years working in all weathers, he remains as enthusiastic as ever – and has even enlisted the support of his son Dane who joined the grounds team in 2021 to follow in his father’s footsteps. 

“My father was a huge horse racing fan, but I’ve always preferred paws to hoofs which led me to joining Newcastle Stadium in my teenage years,” said Bobby. “At first I paraded the greyhounds aged 16 – four years later I joined the grounds team and haven’t looked back. 

“You need to be on the ball because every day is different, and our working week is dictated by the weather. While our racegoers turn up and see the action on track, the operation to consistently deliver the best quality racing surface behind the scenes is enormous.

“I suspected I’d clocked a few miles during my time here but wouldn’t have predicted it would be equivalent to driving around the world twice!” 

At a time where much of the UK is bracing for the cold weather, Bobby will be keeping his fingers crossed for milder temperatures in advance of Newcastle’s feature competition. 

The 53-year-old is hoping for overnight lows of four degrees and daytime highs of seven degrees – temperatures he describes as perfect for preparing his track at this time of year. 

The Arena Racing Company Northern Puppy Derby begins at Newcastle Stadium on Thursday, February 1, with the £12,500 Grand Final scheduled a fortnight later. 

General admission plus trackside and restaurant packages are available to book now by clicking here. Doors open at 6pm with the first race off at 6.38pm. 

Newcastle Greyhound Stadium

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