'No advantage to either side'
by Jamie Bradbury in Drammen
Monday, 10 October, 2011
Tonight will be the Under-21s first game on an artificial pitch.
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Stuart Pearce’s England Under-21s will play Monday night's Euro 2013 Qualifier with Norway on an artificial pitch in Drammen.
The meeting with the Norwegians is at the home of Stromsgodset, who play in the Norwegian Premier League, and is a new 4G surface, unlike the pitches the former Nottingham Forest defender would have played on in the late '80s.
"It's quite cushiony on the joints, it's seems really good and you're going to get a true run of the ball," he told TheFA.com during the team's first training session on the pitch. "Unlike the astro turf pitches I played on when I was younger, this gives a true roll of how a football pitch should be, rather than a massive bounce which meant chasing things that you can't catch."
"The original ones were dangerous. If you went to ground you had burns on your upper thigh that would stay with you for weeks afterwards. I don't think anyone looked forward to playing on them. It always gave a very big advantage to the home side.
"On these pitches now I don't see any advantage for Norway or us, the best side will win the game."
Playing on artificial surfaces sounds like a rarity but three England teams have actually played on artificial surfaces in the last four years.
The England senior team, then managed by Steve McClaren, played their Euro 2008 Qualifier against Russia on a controversial ‘plastic pitch’ in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium in October 2007.
Wayne Rooney volleyed England in front but a Pavlyuchenko double won the tie for Guus Hiddink’s Russian side before a crowd close to 85,000.
Only a month later Paul Fairclough’s England C team beat Finland’s Under-21s 2-0 in an International Challenge Trophy fixture on a similar surface at the Finnair Stadium in Helsinki and the England women’s team won a World Cup Qualifier 6-0 against Malta on an artificial ‘rubber crumb’ pitch in Ta’Qali’s Centenary Stadium in 2010.
An international match was played on artificial turf in 1976 – Canada v USA in Vancouver, Canada – but it was only in 2004 that a paragraph permitting artificial surfaces was written into the Laws of the Game. Surfaces need to satisfy quality guidelines and competition rules.
For tickets for England's next home game against Iceland at Colchester United on 10 November, click here for ticket details.