ANDY TOWNSEND: Wembley pitch is just a lame joke!
It was not sour grapes from Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp when he criticised the Wembley pitch - he was perfectly justified to have a pop at it. A lot of pitches these days are firm but I walked on it before both semi-finals and it was very, very hard. The surface was good on top - the grass was absolutely perfect - but it was so hard underneath that it was difficult for any stud to go into it and that is why players were falling over. It is just unacceptable. For the Carling Cup final it looked too soft and the bounce was unpredictable so the powers that be obviously decided that another surface was required. But they seem to have gone to the extreme. Pitch battle: Tottenham captain Dawson slips to allow Portsmouth's Piquionne to slot home the opener in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final The new pitch is very hard and because they watered it beforehand, it was slippery on top. It was like trying to run on a rug laid on a wooden floor. The groundsmen are obviously putting in a lot of hard work but we end up with either a big pudding or an ice rink. It shouldn't be beyond the wits of man to get this right but we haven't since the stadium opened. The quality of the pitch should be an absolute given so you can understand why the fans are annoyed when you see incidents like Michael Dawson slipping over for Portsmouth's opener on Sunday which contributed to Tottenham's FA Cup semi-final defeat. WHAT'S NEXT AT WEMBLEY? Saturday......Saracens v HarlequinsMay 8........... FA Trophy finalMay 9........... FA Vase finalMay 15..........FA Cup finalMay 16..........Blue Square Premier play-off finalMay 22......... Championship play-off finalMay 24......... England v MexicoMay 29......... League One Play-off finalMay 30......... League Two Play-off finalJune 19........Green Day concert After watching the Aston Villa and Chelsea players falling over on the Saturday, Spurs and Portsmouth will have taken every precaution to ensure it didn't happen to them, but they were still slipping. I saw players in the warm-ups trying two or three different boots and studs but nothing really worked. The players were coming a cropper when they tried to change direction, twisting and turning, because their studs were not sinking in properly. Surely when this new pitch was put down, people were running up and down to test it and see if it felt right. There is no point just putting something out there that looks nice for all those people in the VIP area who refuse to come out after half-time if it doesn't play well. The first question for the FA should be: do we have a surface that can do the occasion proud? The answer to that at the moment is no. Another concern is that we're creating a surface which is going to see players getting injured. You could see Niko Kranjcar injuring himself in extra time on Sunday and Michael Owen was out for the season after playing there in the Carling Cup final. The thought of Wayne Rooney, John Terry and Frank Lampard playing there in a friendly ahead of the World Cup must fill Fabio Capello with dread. Breakdown: Owen was ruled out for the season after getting injured at Wembley When you design these steeply banked bowl stadiums you often seem to get poor pitches. Look at the San Siro - it's famous for it. That's why Arsene Wenger was so adamant about having gaps in the side of the Emirates so the evening sun can come in and more air gets on to the pitch. That way the grass can breathe. Unfortunately, the FA can't do what they do at the German club Schalke where the pitch is slid out of the stadium to protect it when staging other events like concerts. The absolute priority should be that the surface is good enough. We are becoming a laughing stock. You cannot blame the fact that there are other events at Wembley for the state of the pitch. This has to be managed. We've had 10 pitches in four years and for something that isn't used week in, week out, it shouldn't need ripping up every five minutes. That's almost £1m they have spent on it already. Wembley should be remembered for big moments and big occasions and at the moment it is being remembered for a joke of a pitch. THE EXPERTS VIEWBy Dave SaltmanFrom what I saw at the weekend, the FA Cup semi-finals were farcical because of the Wembley pitch. The national stadium clearly needs a decent surface. In an ideal world, the stadium would just host seven or eight matches a year but that isn't the case now and it never has been. The old stadium used to have rock concerts and other sports as well as football, so we can't just blame a heavy schedule for the state of the pitch. But it seems to me that they have the wrong substratum the layer that is beneath the pitch for the number of events they have on there. Substrata are made up of a combination of sand, soil and fibre but you can adjust the percentages of each of those depending on varying factors in the stadium you're working on: weather, the amount of use and its surroundings. Round the bend: Wembley Stadium was transformed into a tarmac circuit for the Race of Champions in 2007 It's clear at the moment that the substratum is not getting enough oxygen, and that means the ground is too hard and water isn't draining properly, which is why players were slipping all the time. When you have concerts or motor racing, for example, the ground becomes squashed up and compact, meaning it is hard under foot. When the ground is that hard, players can't get their studs in properly and that is why they slip. Add to that the fact that the lack of drainage means there was too much surface water and you can see the problem. What I would suggest they do is rip up the substratum and replace it with one that allows more oxygen to get in. That will mean it is softer and drains better. But it would need five or six weeks to bed in, so it is something they would have to work towards for next year rather than for this season's FA Cup final. Dave Saltman is the former groundsman at the Millennium Stadium and has worked for QPR, Spurs, Aston Villa and West Ham. Now head of Pitchcare.com. 'LAUGHABLE, FARCICAL DISGRACE'WHAT THE PLAYERS AND MANAGERS HAVE SAID...PETER CROUCHAfter FA Cup Semi-Finals 'It was ridiculous. Everyone was slipping all over the place and it proved more costly for us because it caused Michael Dawson to slip for their goal.' HARRY REDKNAPPAfter FA Cup Semi-Finals 'The pitch is a disgrace. How can you play on a pitch you can't standup on? You have to spend the whole time making sure you don't fall over. It's farcical.' JOHN TERRYAfter FA Cup Semi-Finals 'The grass was a bit short, which is why everyone was slipping with the hard ground underneath. A few of the lads had studs on we all checked at half-time.' ARSENE WENGERLast April 'It is not a pitch for a stadium like that. You spend all that money onthe stadium and still have no pitch. It is laughable. The quality of the pitch is a disaster.' JAMES MILNERAfter Carling Cup Final 'It's not good enough. It is the home of England. As a team, you want the best surface. I have been there before and never thought: 'This is a great surface.'' SLAVEN BILICNovember 2007 'It is not the condition which Wembley is known for. The top looks soft, but underneath it is hard and it is very slippery, like ice. It is definitely no good for England.' Pitch battle! Time running out to fix Wembley turf for England's pre-World Cup friendlyDream maker! Avram inspires Pompey glory but Wembley pitch is shockingHard-up Pompey can net £3.2m from FA Cup but still lose out on Europe Explore more:People:John Terry, Michael Dawson, Michael Owen, Peter Crouch, Fabio Capello, Harry Redknapp, Wayne Rooney, James Milner, Frank Lampard, Niko KranjcarPlaces:United Kingdom, Mexico
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