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Rochdale to lay new pitch before FA Cup clash with Tottenham

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The Dale’s chairman had harsh words for Mauricio Pochettino... and then decided to replace the pitch anyway.

Rochdale AFC v Millwall - The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Replay Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

It’s been just days since Tottenham Hotspur’s Mauricio Pochettino described the pitch of League 2 side Rochdale as “not in a condition for football” and “a massive risk to players” after seeing the photos from their win over Millwall. The Dale will host Tottenham in the FA Cup fifth round, and photos of the terrible state of the pitch were easily available on social media. It was a wreck, and Pochettino said so, all but asking the FA to step in and intervene to prevent injury.

It didn’t take Rochdale chairman Chris Dunphy long to fire back at Pochettino, calling the Spurs manager’s comments “unhelpful” and blasting Poch for making an armchair diagnosis of the pitch condition from just seeing a picture.

Methinks he doth protest too much? The League 1 match between Rochdale and Fleetwood Town at Spotland was postponed today due to a waterlogged pitch, and Rochdale subsequently announced that they would relay the pitch at their own expense ahead of the FA Cup fifth round tie with Spurs.

From Rochdale’s website:

Work will commence on Saturday evening and will be finished in time for next weekend’s Emirates FA Cup fifth round against Tottenham Hotspur.

We share the disappointment of supporters for today’s postponement but would like to assure everyone this decision has been taken to allow us to fulfill next weekend’s game and to give Keith Hill and his players the opportunity to fulfill the remainder of the league campaign on a surface we can all be proud of.

It doesn’t look like Rochdale had much choice. This was apparently the third league match to be postponed in a relatively short amount of time, and they’ve been playing lately on a pitch that is half mud pit, half beach. Rochdale are in the relegation zone of League 1, and though I’m sure the club and their fans aren’t appreciative of Pochettino basically calling their ground a death trap, something had to be done.

There’s an argument to be made, and I have heard some make it, that Pochettino’s comments were out of line. Spurs are one of the richest clubs in the world, and it seemed disingenuous to criticize a club that is two divisions below them, when that’s kind of the point of the FA Cup.

In the end it doesn’t really matter: Rochdale will have a new pitch and both Spurs and The Dale players won’t have to worry as much about breaking their ankles. There may have been a war of words, but in the end it looks like the right decision was made.

The FA Cup fifth round tie between Rochdale and Tottenham will take place on Sunday, February 18. It will be broadcast on BBC 1.