Life’s a pitch for Melbourne Victory

“Melbourne Victory against Perth Glory, the game that very nearly didn’t happen. All the pre-match talk about the state of the surface, and let’s be brutally honest, the surface is a state.”

Fox Sports commentator Simon Hill was exasperated, but his frustration was nothing compared to that of Perth Glory coach Dave Mitchell – who asked referee Strebre Delovski to abandon their Round 23 clash with Melbourne due to the horrendous condition of the Etihad Stadium pitch.

Looking more like St Kilda Beach than a serviceable football field, the latest in a long line of Etihad Stadium horror shows included one stretch of barren dirt that appeared to be a misplaced cricket pitch.

Perhaps Melbourne had simply called for “the heavy roller” before kick-off, or otherwise portly midfielder Carlos Hernandez had gone down a little too frequently in pre-match training, but the disgraceful state of the surface precluded any champagne passing football from being played.

Not that it bothered Melbourne, as they demolished their hapless opponents 6-2 on the back of a first ever senior hat-trick from Robbie Kruse, with the ubiquitous Hernandez pulling the strings from midfield in another imperious display.

Victory coach Ernie Merrick was quick to downplay the pitch issues after the game, and charitably he chose not to mention the Benny Hill-like performance of the entire Perth defence.

But while Merrick contends that the Etihad Stadium surface didn’t bother his team – and this after he had labelled it a “car park” earlier in the season – the problem for Victory is that it was the first of three home games at the venue within the space of seven days.

Adelaide United and Wellington Phoenix are the next unlucky opponents to risk life and limb on the diabolical surface, although cynics will note that neither side play the ball on the ground that often anyway.

The issue once again highlights the struggles of A-League clubs to play on suitable pitches, and while many Victory fans believe that a move to the as yet unnamed ‘Rectangular Stadium’ next season is the answer, it too comes with its own set of problems.

Far from having the stadium all to themselves, Victory will share it with expansion club Melbourne Heart next season – not to mention rugby league side Melbourne Storm – and from 2011 new rugby franchise Melbourne Rebels will also call the high-tech venue home.

In essence, Victory will simply move from an unloved Aussie Rules ground to one co-tenanted by at least three other sporting teams, and that’s to say nothing of the fact that so-called “blockbuster games” will still revert to the larger Etihad Stadium.

Victory are not the only A-League team frustrated by the poor condition of their pitch, but if the case of Brisbane Roar is anything to go by, it is possible for A-League teams to co-exist with rivals from other sporting competitions.

Brisbane share their cavernous Suncorp Stadium home with popular rugby league club Brisbane Broncos, and both teams play on a pitch that is best described as “pristine.”

Either the A-League needs to fly Suncorp’s groundsman around the country, or football fans had best brace themselves for more shonky surfaces, because if the Etihad Stadium pitch is anything to go by, things are only getting worse.

------------------------------------------------- More to read...

Australia: Stats * The dirt from Down Under
Bluffer's Guide to the A-League
Rest of the World news Home * News * Blogs * Interviews * Forums
Follow FourFourTwo on Twitter and Facebook