I've seen ice-rinks with better grip than the Wembley pitch. In two recent FA Cup semifinals, players were slipping over left, right and center. It had a massive influence on the results which could've been very different if the pitch wasn't so slippery.
Cast your mind back to Sunday's match between Tottenham and Portsmouth. Michael Dawson was closing down Frederic Piquionne close to the goalmouth, but he suddenly slipped, giving Piquionne time to set himself up for an easy tap-in goal.
I'm in no way being bitter about Portsmouth winning. It was anyones game and I sincerely wish them luck in the final because they have earned their win. However, the Wembley pitch could be considered accountable for how the games panned out. Aston Villa players kept slipping over against Chelsea. The entire back-four, at one point, slipped over one by one as Chelsea crossed a ball through the Villa goal.
Not only that, but thanks to some more dubious refereeing, Tom Huddlestone was unnecessarily booked for a foul when he actually slipped over. It was the slippery pitch combined with his rather top-heavy build (and some dubious refereeing) which got him seeing yellow. The state of the pitch caused the booking of Tom Huddlestone in my opinion. Anyone can see he fell into rather than professionally fouled the Portsmouth player (that's where video replays would have been handy, but that's a different story).
The FA are supposed to be the home of football, an organization who make it their duty to ensure the smooth running of major sporting events such as the FA Cup by, for instance, maintaining Wembley's playing surface. What I saw during the FA Cup semifinals was the epitome of dire negligence.
How are we meant to portray our flagship stadium as the ideal venue for the 2018 FIFA World Cup if the pitch is in such bad shape?
It is an utter disgrace and takes the mickey out of us as a prestigious footballing nation. During the Euro 2008 qualifiers, the Wembley pitch was torn up near the goallines and had bobbles in it. Nothing was done. The pitch was resurfaced almost four weeks ago, but with that comes a responsibility to maintain it. Who wants to wait for grass seeds to grow?
For what it was worth, we could have had all these important matches on Sunday League pitches... or a beginners golf course (emphasising the chunks of turf removed during play).
Another reason for this rant is injury concerns. If a player slips over on a wet pitch, his legs could involuntarily move into any position and cause any injury you can think of. It would be a stroke of bad luck, but there'd still be someone to point fingers at, the FA for maltreatment of the Wembley turf. If it was an England player in the 2018 World Cup final at Wembley, there'd be a lot more outrage about the pitch than there is now.
The FA now has a chance to stop thinking about saving money and invest in the future of this excellent stadium so that England has a better chance of being the ones to host the World Cup in 2018. A new plan of action starts today.
I'm fully aware that hosting other events is part of their business plan and what makes Wembley one of the best venues in the world. However, events like rugby and NFL games shouldn't be allowed, particularly if they're scheduled so close to a football game. The reason is that playing rugby/American football makes holes and patches in the turf and there won't be enough time to get the pitch in the right conditions. That has been made evident during the FA Cup semifinals.
Rugby and NFL games need to be moved to a rugby-specific stadium like Twickenham because that's where events like that are played. Therefore, they have the facilities to maintain the pitch for those kinds of events.
If the pitch wasn't that bad, why have people intended to walk above it rather than on it?
Pitches are meant to be sprinkled before the game, not drenched. Either that or footballers need cleats rather than football boots.
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