Managers turn up heat in row over injury to Waghorn
Clark and Warburton at odds over pitch
THE row over Kilmarnock’s artificial surface escalated last night after Mark Warburton blamed it for the knee injury which may have ended Martyn Waghorn’s season.
But Lee Clark, the recently installed manager at Rugby Park, was adamant playing on this pitch was not dangerous, a point backed up by the fact that every Barclays Premier League club has to have them at their academies.
Warburton, who ordinarily is reluctant to make any sort of public criticism, clearly made the point that Waghorn, Rangers’ leading goalscorer this season, would not be out for so long had Tuesday night’s Scottish Cup tie in Ayrshire been played on grass.
“We’re quite adamant as a club, from our medical department and from ourselves as coaches reviewing the injury, that the nature of Martyn’s injury would not be the same if he’d been playing on grass,” said Warburton.
“It’s as simple as that. Our player came off that pitch with lacerations and bruising. Immediately we compared it to how it would look if you’d fallen over in the playground; that’s how it looked.
“He had blood, bruising and then the scan shows any problems inside the knee. There is no doubt in our mind, there is no blame attached, we are just making the point, the nature of the surface changed the type of injury our player suffered. That’s our opinion and you won’t change it.
“I can’t possibly answer how long he’d have been had the injury been picked up on grass. But you immediately saw bruising and lacerations on his knee, that wouldn’t have happened on grass.”
For his part, Clark, who enjoys a good relationship with the Rangers manager, but could not agree that the astroturf pitches of today cause injuries to players.
“Injuries happen in football matches whether we play on top quality 3G synthetic pitches or grass; that’s the nature of the game,” said the new Kilmarnock manager.
“We are compliant with all the rules and regulations regarding the standard. Down south, to get your category one and category two academy status, you have to have one of these surfaces and that’s for some of the best young players in the world.
“Even the biggest clubs have to have the surfaces for the young players to train on, so if they were that dangerous they would not put them in that sort of environment.
“My youngster [his son Bobby] at Newcastle United, who is in the academy, trains on it four times a week and if they were that dangerous then I’m not sure they would be putting young lives and careers in jeopardy.”
However, Warburton was adamant and claimed to have the statistics to back up his view.
He said: “There was a recent PFA survey, interviewing something like 705
FOOTBALLERS are creatures of habit and attempting to change their natural behaviour can end in disaster.
But when you are Lee Clark, an Englishman abroad as it were, given just 13 games to keep a struggling Kilmarnock team in the Ladbrokes SPFL Premiership, trying something different is a hell of a lot better than continuing with what clearly was not working.
Training times, how the dressing room looks, when the players get up in the morning. All of this has been looked at by the new manager who today takes charge of his first game, a home match against Dundee.
“It has been hectic,” admitted Clark. “There are not enough hours in the day to implement all the changes I want in terms of how we do things, training, schedules, things I want to change around the building such as the dressing room and corridors.
“It’s just putting stuff up in the dressing room; photographs of current players who have been doing well and past success stories plus inspirational quotes from top athletes.
“It all comes under the one umbrella. You’ve got to look at all the different sports and sportsmen to find out how they became the best in their field as individuals or as a team.
“From now on we will train chronologically, which means that we will train at the same time as the kick-off of our next game. We’ve already started doing that, with 3pm sessions for Saturday games and 7.45pm for midweek matches so that the players’ body clocks are in tune.
“When there are no midweek games there will be double sessions. Strength and conditioning training – along with prehab and rehab work – will now be compulsory.
“Tuesdays and Wednesdays will be intensive and we’ll taper down on Thursdays and Fridays so that they’ll be like caged animals by the time we get to three o’clock on a Saturday.”
Caged is a lot better than being wounded, which is what the Kilmarnock players have played like this season. Clark is a mixture of old and new school, no bad combination, and this way of thinking was inspired by a former manager known for thinking outside the box.
Clark said: “I worked that way when I played under Jean Tigana at Fulham and it made a significant difference to our performances.
“Our fitness levels became higher and there was a great benefit all round. We became successful very quickly under him. Being allowed to do that was one of the big things for me when I took this job.
“The players won’t have experienced this before. Some of the younger ones will have been staying up too late so the new system will give them the chance to get the required amount of sleep.”
Clark was a spectator on Tuesday night when his new team lost to Rangers in the Scottish Cup, a defeat which in truth meant little to a club who are trying to avoid relegation.
The former Newcastle United man believes he has something to work with and a few things to work on.
“They played with confidence and personality,” said Clark. “They played with a lot of freedom and worked hard even when they were tired. Fatigue set in so that’s one area we will be looking to improve.
“But if they can last the 90 or 95 minutes then we have a good chance of winning plenty games.
“You have to watch putting yourself in jeopardy by picking up injuries because you have pushed them too hard and, certainly, we need them fresh for the games.
“I have spoken to players, briefly, after Tuesday’s game. I am getting a lot of feedback from the staff which is going to be crucial for us.”
And, of course, we soon return to the Rugby Park pitch, which seems to be the biggest talking point Scottish football has right now.
Not that Clark is interested in such debate and, indeed, he made the point Kilmarnock’s home form has been so poor that it’s hardly the case that they have been handed any sort of advantage.
“There are problems,” he said. “That is why we are in this position. I think it’s easier to play on. It didn’t affect the players’ performance for 65 minutes on Tuesday night.
“I was impressed. They just tired a little bit towards the end and Rangers turned the screw a bit. So I don’t think we are here to make excuses. We train on it every day and you get to know about the surface.”
SEASON’S END? Martyn Waghorn holds his knee during Rangers’ Scottish Cup win over Kilmarnock
FRENCH STYLE: Clark says he has implemented some of Jean Tigana’s methods at Rugby Park.