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McClaren dismisses pitch concerns

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England coach Steve McClaren says the artificial pitch in Russia's Luzhniki stadium is no excuse for failure in Wednesday's vital Euro 2008 qualifier.


The England team are training on an exact replica in Altrincham on Monday and McClaren said: "It is a flat pitch and there is absolutely no excuse."


But players who have used the surface say it places different physical demands on the body to normal grass.


"I'm not a big fan of the pitch at all," said Altrincham's Gareth Whalley.


"If you've got any niggles, the pitch will certainly pick them out.


"It does feel like it has more give but once you've trained on it, it is quite testing on the legs and joints.


"It's probably not too advisable to train on it for a long time."


England go into the crucial game are five points ahead of Russia but having played one game more than their Group E opponents.


A win in Russia will be enough for England to qualify for the Euro 2008 finals, while a draw would mean they need only a point from their final home clash with Croatia.


McClaren maintains the pitch is not an issue and that research of 100 matches played on the surface in Moscow revealed there was no difference between it and a grass pitch.


However, Whalley's team-mate Colin Little believes the surface will give Russia a "slight advantage".


Whalley, formerly of Bradford City and Crewe added: "When you get to the latter stages of your career, let's say you start to feel the aches and pains a bit more.


"I've had a couple of ankle operations, so when I do train on there it really does pick out the soreness in the ankle and the next day it can get quite painful.


"Personally, it seems to make me a bit stiffer. If you played a full match on it you would probably feel a bit stiffer the next day than on a normal pitch."


Scotland and Birmingham forward Garry O'Connor played at the Luzhniki stadium when at Lokomotiv Moscow and echoed Whalley's sentiments.


The surface is also widely used in America where former Aston Villa striker Juan Pablo Angel is not a fan.


"I found it hard to adjust to the turf," he said recently. "Every morning I wake up after games and it takes me two or three days to recover."


However, Little, a former Crewe player like Whalley, is not as pessimistic.


"We did our pre-season on it, which you couldn't have done years ago," he said.


"No-one picked up any injuries and we probably got more injuries the year before when we did our pre-season on the grass.


"There's loads of give in them. It's like a bit of suspension. Years ago they were slate based and felt like you were running on concrete.


"I coach at Crewe where we have got one and technical director Dario Gradi prefers to play on them rather than the grass."


FieldTurf, which installed the pitches in Altrincham and Moscow, was unavailable for comment.


The synthetic pitch in Moscow, which is three years old, is approved by Uefa and is used in Russia to cope with the severe winter weather conditions the country experiences.


The Russian Football Federation (RFF) had the option of upgrading the pitch but decided against it after the 3-0 defeat by England at Wembley in September.


However, the RFF denied that the pitch offered the Russians a noticeable advantage.

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I'm not sure if there is more being made about the pitch than is nessasary, surely its not like the old plastic pitches of the 80's ? the modern "plastic" pitches are far more advanced from back then, infact I'm sure most clubs play on similar surfaces in their indoor training facilities.

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My local side, Dundalk, play home games on a pitch the exact same as this pitch in Moscow. The standard might not be the same, but its the exact same FIFA 2 star pitch. I have yet to see any player do his knee turning or even get injured because of the pitch itself. The one thing is that it bobbles like fcuk. A simple rolled backpass becomes a git of a bobbly ball back to the keeper, and with Robinsons run of form/luck, who knows!


PS. We're unbeaten in 2 years at home on it :unsure:

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