I was lucky enough this weekend to be able to watch both FA Cup semi finals that took place at Wembley stadium in London from the comfort of my own home. As we know, Chelsea got the better of Aston Villa while Portsmouth went through against Tottenham in a fantastically entertaining and dramatic game.
The final, which takes place on 15 May, will pit the ’08 winner v the ’09 winner with former Chelsea manager Avram Grant now at the helm for Pompey. The final itself has enough sub-plots and story lines to assure an entertaining day. It’ll most likely be 1 v 20 and David v Goliath in a match where everything gets thrown out the window when the opening whistle blows.
It’s safe to say that on paper, Chelsea should be favorites. However, the way Portsmouth players seem to play with no pressure because of the fact their Premier League fate is now secured, leads me to believe that I would be foolish to write off their chances.
In the aftermath of the semi finals, supporters, managers, pundits and participants on call in shows have yet again lamented the awful playing surface of the national stadium. The state of the Wembley pitch has come into question more times than number of divots one could count on the surface itself. Does the FA think of business and finances first and football second? Is the state of the pitch really that terrible?
In short, Yes – but why?
Over the course of this past weekend’s two matches, multiple players could be seen slipping and losing their footing all afternoon. Portsmouth’s opening goal in added extra time came when Spurs defender Michael Dawson, attempting to mark Portsmouth’s Frederic Piquionne, slipped and fell in the box allowing Piquionne to score the vital opener.
Spurs boss Harry Redknapp was quoted as saying “The pitch was a disgrace. I’m not using it as an excuse – it was the same for both teams – but for any professional team to have to play football on that is farcical.”
The dreadful surface has even been described as a “skating rink“, wherein players are constantly trying to stay on their feet. Redknapp furthered his disdain for the field by saying, “It’s rock hard and wet on top, it’s impossible to play on”. As bad as the pitch may have been, and although the result didn’t go the way of Tottenham, Spurs were in fact able to “play” on Sunday. Tottenham were the better team moving forward over the course of the afternoon, Spurs just lacked that killer ball in the final third, creating chance after chance, but definitely lacked sharpness in front of goal.
On Saturday’s episode of the BBC 5 Live 606 Football Phone In, a caller brought up the idea of the design of the stadium itself not allowing in enough sun to reach the pitch. Although I’m not an architect or expert in landscape & design, the caller’s point got me thinking of the FA’s priorities. Do they care enough about the state of the national stadium? Are number of tickets sold, expensive chili dogs and matches that in all honesty, shouldn’t even be played at Wembley all they really care about?
Who’s to blame for the pitch, and why won’t it’s woeful state be rightfully addressed? In all honesty, just how bad is the state of the Wembley pitch? Regardless of your opinion, as a fan of the England national team and English football in general, I for one remained embarrassed by the woeful state of the Wembley pitch.