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Mick Rathbone Column - The Other Man's Grass

Next door’s dog did the dirty on our lawn so I’m thinking of having the whole area replaced! I think it could make the surface slippery and therefore potentially dangerous next time I’m sunbathing.  OK, maybe a bit of an overreaction but that’s the way it is nowadays. All the furore over the state of the Wembley pitch and the amount of times they have replaced it makes me smile when I think of some of the dung heaps I played on!

One Christmas in 1979 we were due to play Mansfield at Ewood Park but the pitch was covered in snow and also frozen.  Now Rovers needed the gate money from that holiday bumper crowd and that bloody match was going ahead no matter what.  So cue the big metal braziers, about twenty of them, placed strategically on the pitch filled with coal and wood and set alight! It worked! Well let’s say it melted the snow and ice but turned the pitch into a quagmire! The game went ahead and provided a never to be forgotten spectacle mainly because by the end of the game it was impossible to move the ball unless you flicked it up and volleyed it! Great entertainment.

Back in those days muddy pitches were the norm and then when spring came they dried out and became grassless and extremely bobbly so everybody kept slicing and miskicking the ball – that’s my excuse anyway.  Fast forward a mere decade and I find myself on the complete opposite of mud-astroturf!

Preston’s astroturf pitch was brute, hard and unforgiving.  I had friction burns continuously for four ruddy years. Sometimes in winter the astro would freeze so the groundsman would sprinkle a salt solution on it just before kick-off.  So you could do a slide tackle, get a friction burn AND have it cleaned at the same time!  We trained on it every day of course, it was so convenient, but when we played away none of us could play on grass anymore - that season we had the best home record and the worst away record!

Modern technology means that the Premier League pitches are perfect all year whatever the weather; flat and well grassed.  I would have hated them as when one of your crosses goes into row Z there’s no point looking down at the surface, you aren’t kidding anybody!

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