First we had fake news being reported and now its fake pitches.
With Arsenal playing, albeit not happily according to Arsene, on Sutton’s artificial pitch last night it seemed like a good idea to have a look at the not-so-recent but far-better-than-they-used-to-be phenomenon.
I don’t even know what to call them. Are they known as artificial, or plastic or 3G pitches?
One things for sure, the fake grass has certainly come on leaps and bounds from when I used to have a kick around on a Monday night. Let’s be honest there was only one thing you could predict when playing on the early day pitches, and that was pain! If the jarred knees or ankles didn’t get you, then the third degree burns would.
Don’t get me wrong, it was greatly satisfying walking off that pitch with your burn on full show. You knew if you had had three layers of skin taken off then you knew you had a good game. Those who witnessed your bloodied wound would look at you and nod in approval. It was almost like winning a medal of honour, although having never won one I can’t actually confirm this.
But the real fun would be when you arrived home and jumped in the shower. All that pride just minutes before was now replaced by sheer pain. We all tried not to scream like little girls but it was no good. What would be worse, was if it was an outdoor pitch and slightly covered in a dusting of sand. And when I say dusting, I actually mean tonnes and tonnes of the yellow stuff.
You knew your stupidity when you went flying into a tackle, forgetting this was not real grass, and slid half the pitch, leaving a trail of skin behind you. The thought of getting that sand out my third degree burn still makes me wince today.
Back in the day both QPR and Luton had plastic pitches. Yes it was true they had no divots or bare patches of ground. Instead they had a truly awful bounce which was so untrue it defied belief. Eventually the FA saw sense and both clubs were told to remove the pitch.
But of course artificial pitches have moved on so much now. Today we have 3G pitches, which look great and play a little bit closer to a grass pitch. They’re not perfect of course, nothing would ever replace real grass but they do a good job. There’s no sand or even carpet, it’s as close to grass as you can get, whilst covered in little tiny black rubber balls. They are so much safer than sand. The only thing you do nowadays is spend weeks cleaning up the tiny balls in your house as for some reason they seem to get everywhere. Your shoes you can understand, but suddenly you find them in your shorts, socks and even in your hair. Maybe that was just me.
But I do feel rather nostalgic when I think back to the carpet burning, sand covered, and skin ripping pitches. But oh my, the pain!
Today though, we can be thankful for these improved artificial pitches, less pain, less injuries and a slightly truer bounce. Although I’m sure millions of groundsmen right now are jumping up and down in disgust.