Time to sort out dodgy pitches

The Football League Paper - - FRONT PAGE -

NO won­der Sun­der­land manager Gus Poyet in­vited Brad­ford to switch their FA Cup tie to the Sta­dium of Light this week. The pitch at Val­ley Pa­rade is in a hor­ren­dous state, with even Ban­tams boss Phil Parkin­son call­ing it the worst he’s ever seen.

It’s a sim­i­lar story at Black­pool, whose sur­face has looked ter­ri­ble for far too long now.


I was at Bloom­field Road on Tues­day night as Black­pool lost 2-1 to Mid­dles­brough and let me tell you one thing – there is no way any­one can per­form prop­erly un­der those con­di­tions.

I spoke to Boro boss Ai­tor Karanka ( pic­tured) af­ter the game and he said the pitch had caused one of his play­ers to pick up an in­jury. He had to make seven changes be­cause he said some of his play­ers sim­ply wouldn’t be able to play their game on that sur­face.

As a player, it’s in­cred­i­bly frus­trat­ing. Be­cause when you know a pitch isn’t safe – be it a mud­bath or one full of div­ots – it takes at least ten per cent out of your game.

You look at Brad­ford or Black­pool and the top sur­face is loose and un­sturdy. That means your con­cen­tra­tion is on stay­ing up­right, not on your game. You’re not run­ning as fast, you’re scared to check or turn sharply. Ev­ery time you jump, you have to con­cen­trate on land­ing prop­erly.

You get into good po­si­tions, then slip at the cru­cial mo­ment.You even have to think about which pass to play. You’re say­ing ‘Well if I play it there, it’ll hit a bob­ble and he’s never go­ing to con­trol it’. Some­times, you’ve no choice but to get it in the air. It can be em­bar­rass­ing as well. Up in the stands, it can be hard to ap­pre­ci­ate how un­even the ground is. All fans see is a poor touch and it makes you look a right mug.

But as frus­trat­ing as it is for us play­ers, it’s the fans I feel sorry for be­cause a rot­ten sur­face com­pletely ru­ins the spec­ta­cle.

Those sup­port­ers pay a lot of money to go and watch their team play but what they’re get­ting is a sub­stan­dard prod­uct.

Are the grounds­men to blame? Are the clubs in­vest­ing enough? I don’t know. I spoke to the Ch­ester grounds­man a few weeks ago and he said his bud­get was next to noth­ing. He still had loads of grass out there. If a Con­fer­ence side can man­age it, why shouldn’t clubs two and three di­vi­sions higher?

What­ever the case, clubs have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to make sure the pitch is of a de­cent stan­dard be­cause this is pro­fes­sional foot­ball.

Yes, pitches many years ago were very com­mon in this sort of con­di­tion but foot­ball has moved on with vast more amounts of money in the game to en­sure the pitch is of a good stan­dard.

If you de­mand pro­fes- sional stan­dards from your play­ers, they have a right to ex­pect pro­fes­sional stan­dards in re­turn. And if you take hard-earned cash of your fans, you should do ev­ery­thing in your power to give them value for money.

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