GRASS FOR THE BULLS
By Bill Thomas
I read with great interest, Simon Wright’s article in Talking Bull, Issue 103 about the benefits of plastic pitches. He made some valid points. But personally I would be very disappointed if Hereford FC ever considered having a plastic pitch. I don’t think the club have ever thought of it.
A couple of weeks after reading Simon’s article, I read that some have questioned whether playing on 3G pitches could be a health risk, although I have also read that the FA have said that 3G pitches are safe. Obviously health is far more important than football, but I am not qualified to comment on the safety of 3G pitches, so I will concentrate on football arguments.
I assume that the long term target of Hereford FC is to reach the Football League, and at the time of writing, plastic pitches are not allowed in the Football League. But even if plastic pitches are eventually allowed in the Football League, Hereford are a club that like to do everything in the right way. As well as winning, our supporters want us to “play football in the right way” and for many the “right way” may include playing home games on grass. Some supporters may not object to a plastic pitch, but others may hate the idea, and why upset anyone?
I have to admit that the only game I have attended played on plastic was Hereford’s pre-season friendly at Merthyr. It was a good game, and after a few minutes I didn’t notice the surface and just enjoyed the football. But I remember Peter Beadle saying after the game that the players didn’t like the plastic pitch. And in my opinion if our players didn’t like the plastic pitch then we should never have one. I also read an article about the reaction to plastic pitches in Scotland from managers and players, and the majority preferred grass. According to the article one player was actually advised not to play on AstroTurf. I have also read that Thierry Henry used to avoid playing on artificial surfaces during his spell in the MLS.
Teams with 3G pitches may well suffer less postponements, and artificial pitches may require less maintenance. But thanks to the excellent work of our groundsman the grass pitch at Edgar Street is normally in excellent condition. I have no idea whether 3G pitches vary, but grass pitches can provide so much variety on the same pitch throughout the season. We have beautiful, unspoilt pitches at the start of the season, heavy pitches mid season, and dry pitches later in the campaign. And many club groundsmen actually enjoy the challenge of keeping a grass pitch playable during the winter months. Of course teams with 3G pitches can earn additional revenue by hiring out their pitch, but what will happen if they are promoted to a level where 3G pitches are not permitted?
Let’s also not forget that best way for lower league clubs to become famous is to perform an FA Cup giant killing. And would a giant killing be as likely on plastic? The heavy grass pitches can act as a great leveller, and is probably one of the reasons that there are giant killings. A Premier League side could probably train on a plastic pitch almost anywhere, but surely it is much more difficult to prepare for a particular grass pitch. A heavy pitch of course can NOT be used an excuse for the greatest giant killing of all time as Hereford drew at Newcastle first, before beating them at Edgar Street.
But Hereford beat Newcastle on a natural pitch and it made us famous. And that is one of the many reasons why I believe that the playing surface at Edgar Street should always be GRASS*!
Editors Note: With a bit of mud thrown in.