Tottenham Hotspur’s opponent in the FA Cup fifth round has put down a new pitch to allay concerns over player safety, and it looks lovely. The new pitch was laid at the League One club’s expense and reportedly cost around £500k.
You can see pictures of the new pitch on Rochdale’s website. It’s certainly a vast improvement over the previous surface, which featured more brown than green and looked like something you’d see in a municipal park. It’s easily enough to allay any concerns Pochettino and the FA might have had about player safety.
Days after Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino expressed concern about the club visiting the League 1’s stadium to play in the cup, Rochdale’s chairman Chris Dunphy fired back, calling Poch’s comments “unhelpful.” To his credit, Pochettino apologized to Dunphy in a press conference today ahead of Sunday’s match.
“First of all, I want to apologize to the people in Rochdale and the chairman and the people who took my comment the wrong way. My comment was about the care, first of all the players of Rochdale, our players and the competition that all of England watches on TV.
After we beat Newport in the fourth-round replay, their manager Michael Flynn showed me a picture of the pitch and it wasn’t great. I wanted to ensure their players and my players would be safe, but I was always very respectful.
“But now I have seen pictures and videos of the new pitch on the Rochdale website and I need to congratulate them. The effort was massive, to put in a new pitch so we can play without risk. I was always confident and trusted them that they would be able to fix the problem.”
Seeing top teams play away at a small club is one of the best things about the FA Cup (at least when it’s not your club), and dodgy pitches are just one of the challenges that teams need to overcome. However, Rochdale’s old pitch was ridiculous, and it’s good for everyone — Rochdale and Spurs players — that they’ve decided to fix it.
The match kicks off Sunday at 4 pm GMT (11 am ET) and will be televised on BBC One in the UK, Fox Sports 1 in the USA.