Aberdeen gaffer Derek McInnes today claimed the poor state of the Pittodrie surface is unacceptable and is hindering his side’s play.
The Reds replaced the Pittodrie surface last summer but it is already rutted, uneven and bare in areas.
McInnes reckons the uneven pitch is preventing flair players like Niall McGinn, Ryan Christie and Gary Mackay-Steven from making their trademark marauding runs at defenders.
That is because their focus is on the run of the ball and potential bobbles from the surface.
Pittodrie sources indicate the club are working seven days a week to get the surface back up to scratch.
Aberdeen are hopeful that when the worst of the winter weather subsides it will finally allow for sustained growth of the grass on the Pittodrie pitch.
McInnes was also quick to acknowledge the hard work of the club’s ground staff to get the surface the Reds players deserve.
Aberdeen were held 1-1 by Kilmarnock in the Scottish Cup quarter-final on that surface. They now face a replay at Rugby Park on Tuesday, March 13 for the right to face Motherwell in the semi -final at Hampden.
Boss McInnes said: “I don’t think we should be accepting of that surface.
“We spent a lot of money on it during the summer.
“I am well aware of how hard the ground staff work and all the rest of it.
“But we are deserving of a better pitch than that.
“Our pitch should be better than what it is.
“There’s no real speed in the pitch or slickness on the surface. It’s difficult.
“Players who would normally run with the ball such as McGinn, Christie and Mackay-Steven are having to fully concentrate as they’re running rather than trying to execute the pass, cross or shot.
“It isn’t helping either team trying get the ball down.
“It’s a difficult surface. Even Killie’s flair players like Jordan Jones found it difficult to run with the ball on that pitch, so it becomes more about playing percentages and being pragmatic.
“There was no real fluency or rhythm from either team.
“It was all about trying to get on top of your opponent, get on to second balls, play into good areas.
“Kilmarnock turned us as much as we tried to turn them and there’s no real speed in the pitch, no slickness.
“Kilmarnock identified that and asked questions of us because of it.”
Aberdeen surrendered a 1-0 half-time advantage in the quarter-final tie at Pittodrie.
The Reds struggled to produce their normal attacking fluency and passing game.
However, McInnes does not blame the bobbly surface for the failure to set up a last four showdown with Motherwell next month.
Even in the aftermath of recent victories at Pittodrie, he has highlighted the perilous condition of the turf.
Ultimately it was the lack of communication between Shaleum Logan and Kari Arnason and the subsequent calamitous defending of the duo that led to Kilmarnock’s equalising goal – not a bad bounce or dodgy bobble.
He said: “I am not blaming the pitch for us not getting through to the semi-final.
“But it is certainly not helping. We are having to play a certain way and defend a certain way, which doesn’t always suit some of our players.”
There is a sense of deja-vu with the Pittodrie surface.
Following a 2-0 loss to St Johnstone at Pittodrie last April, McInnes bemoaned the pitch, stating: “We have the second best team in Scotland but we have the worst pitch in the country.”
Not only is the surface battered by the elements sweeping in from the North Sea, Pittodrie had – until last summer – hosted a competitive game every month since July 2015.
There had been only one month of inactivity at the ground, June 2015, in three years before last summer.
In reaction, the Reds replaced the pitch during the close season. It was the first time the surface has been relaid since summer 2013.
Due to the Dons’ entry into the Europa League the time-frame to complete the work was restricted.
Aberdeen placed a request with the SPFL, which was granted, to have the final two Premiership games away from home to allow the time for the required work to replace the pitch.
Aberdeen’s final home game of the 2016-17 season was on May 12.
They were back at Pittodrie just two months later on July 13 for a Europa League tie against Siroki Brijeg. A harsh winter has taken its toll on the new pitch.
Perhaps the biggest impact of the surface is on the ball-runners – players such as on-loan Celtic attacker Christie.
Aberdeen face a cup replay on the Fifa 2 Star 3G artificial surface at Rugby Park.
Laid in summer 2014, Kilmarnock’s synthetic pitch has been criticised. However, Killie recently confirmed they would retain the pitch for next season.
Former Kilmarnock attacker Steven Naismith, now at Hearts, confirmed he could not consider any prospect of a return to his old club in the January window due to the pitch.
However, Scotland international Christie insists the condition of many pitches deep into winter does strengthen the debate for artificial surfaces.
Christie said: “It’s this time of the year where the plastic pitch has an argument for itself.
“It’s very hard to play good football on this surface (Pittodrie) so hopefully we’ll have a better chance down there on the plastic pitch.
“It’s not just me. For Niall McGinn, Gary Mackay-Steven and Stevie May it’s frustrating playing on the grass pitches when they’re in the state they are in at the moment.
“You have to feel sorry for groundsmen at this time of year trying to battle the weather and keep them in a half decent condition.
“It’s frustrating trying to play good football on it and I can see why the fans can get frustrated as well when the football’s not as appealing to watch.”
Hamilton Accies also have a synthetic surface and New Douglas Park has been a venue that has been problematic for the Reds in recent seasons.
More than 25% of SPFL grounds over the four leagues have synthetic surfaces.
Christie said: “Hopefully the plastic pitch (at Klllie) will suit some of our players.
“Hopefully, the ball will run a lot better than on the grass pitches across Scotland as they always get a battering at this time of year.”