Life’s a Pitch For United

Tannadice - Waterlogged

Another year in the SPL and another host of games called off due to adverse weather. The weather Gods have predominantly cursed Motherwell F.C. in recent seasons – with the bad weather leading to all sorts of chaos for the Lanarkshire club. One minute it was under-soil heating not doing it’s job, the next it was drainage systems not getting rid of surface water properly. Not to mention the games that did eventually go ahead ruining the pitch into a state that could only be described as a ploughed field.

Motherwell came in for a lot of bad press during those times, and it was possibly justified – but credit to them, as they eventually spent a lot of cash getting the pitch re-laid and the drainage sorted. This season, however, we’ve witnessed Dundee United receiving the brunt of the bad weather and many peeved fans – with their most recent call off causing a stir at Hamilton (the opponents) due to the fact that the match referee left it until 5:30pm on the evening of the match to deem the pitch unplayable. I think the Hamilton staff and fans had every right to be annoyed. Not for the first time in Scottish football the paying fans seem to have been treated like second class citizens.

tannadice snowAt the time of writing, United have had a total of ten matches called off so far this season – seven of them in a row at the tail end of 2010, during a time that Scotland was being subjected to Siberian style weather. The unprecedented levels of snow that fell during that time put paid to a lot of games being postponed, with most of them being called off due to conditions around the stadium rather than inside it. During the weeks after the heavy snow, the icy conditions that followed made it nigh on impossible for fans to navigate the streets in any safe way – leading to the local Police calling a halt to proceedings before match officials could even inspect the pitch. The most concerning aspect of so many postponements is that the situation has now developed into a ridiculous backlog of games for United to play. It is estimated the Tannadice outfit may see themselves having to play eight competitive fixtures in the space of a fortnight before the season is out. Such a small squad, with already a few key players on the treatment table, will surely be stretched to the absolute limit.

Tannadice - Utd vs Rangers - RainTannadice has under-soil heating. It may be an old, ageing system, but it is most definitely fit for purpose and is very capable of dealing with moderate snowfall and even the keenest of frost. However, an age old problem of this famous ground is its inability to deal with long periods of moderate to heavy rainfall – something that doesn’t ever seem to have been addressed properly. For a classic example, we only have to look back to last season’s SPL match against Rangers which was abandoned at half time due to the persistent rain.

An aside for you. Many people have asked over the years why United fans are given the nickname, The Arabs. Well, let me explain for those not paying attention at the back. Everyone knows that sand has long been used to help with predominantly wet, boggy areas of ground and, a long time ago, Tannadice used to have so much sand on it, it resembled a desert. I’m sure you can work it out by now. Sand, Arabs – you do the rest.

To be fair to United, there have been attempts to improve the drainage of the pitch at Tannadice over the years. The problem is, however, it’s not how heavy the rain is but more about how long it actually lasts. A period of rain lasting 24 hours, for example, will most definitely see a game at Tannadice called off nowadays. Compare that to a short burst of heavy rain followed by a drying out period – in this situation you will rarely witness any real problems with the pitch.

Unfortunately, in Scotland, we are always going to be held to ransom by the weather. This is nothing new, so I don’t know why we all look so surprised and get all upset when we find out games are postponed. A country that very often experiences almost Arctic-like weather conditions and chooses to play it’s football in the middle of winter has always baffled me. OK, so there’s maybe something romantic about watching your team in a Cup match on a misty, drizzly night beneath the floodlights, but I really do believe shutting down the league for a month or so in winter would be very beneficial – the romantics would quickly get used to it. Ultimately, though, I have come to the conclusion that I would rather see summer football introduced. It is long overdue and, in my opinion, the sooner we start making some positive moves towards it, rather than just talking, the better for us all.  It seems, however, those at the SFA are saving this discussion for a rainy day.

Now, that reminds me, where did I put that cagoule?


N Redpath

Scottish Football Forums Creative Director and Contributor. Full-time football fan, part-time Web Developer (don't tell the boss). Life long season ticket holder at Tannadice.