Time to sort out dodgy pitches
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.