Rangers manager Mark Warburton called for an end to artificial surfaces in the top flight as he admitted Martyn Waghorn’s season could be over after picking up an injury at Rugby Park.
The Gers striker went off immediately after winning and scoring a fourth-minute penalty before the Championship leaders went on to win 2-1 in their William Hill Scottish Cup fifth-round replay on Tuesday.
As 28-goal Waghorn said he would be out for between six to eight weeks on his Twitter account, Rangers issued a statement, part of which read: “The initial impact on an unforgiving Rugby Park surface resulted in bruising and lacerations which were immediately visible.”
Killie hit back at the Ibrox club, describing criticism of their surface as “ill-informed”. But Warburton stuck to his guns after he updated Waghorn’s injury situation ahead of Sunday’s Championship clash with Queen of the South at Palmerston, which also has a plastic surface.
“He is seeing a specialist today in London to get a more detailed report,” the Rangers boss said.
“There is no surgery required which is most pleasing. Hopefully he will be back for the end of the season, but there is a possibility he won’t, it depends how his recovery progresses.”
Turning to Killie’s artificial surface, Warburton said: “There is no doubt in our minds, from a coaching perspective and medical perspective, his injury wouldn’t have been of this nature if it hadn’t been for the pitch.
“Martyn Waghorn left that pitch with lacerations and immediate bruising, there is no doubt about that.
“When we use the term unforgiving, we meant in terms of the hard aspect of the pitch.
“It is harder than a grass pitch would have been. It is as simple as that.
“Had that been on grass he wouldn’t have the same nature of injury that he has now.
“That is just a simple fact and that has been backed up by a medical team, a very proficient medical team and by coaching staff who saw the initial impact of the injury.”
Asked if he did not want artificial pitches in Scottish football, the former Brentford boss said: “Personally, not at the highest level, we need to be clear on that.
“We understand the financial climate, the need for revenue, we are not ignoring that.
“But at the highest level, to attract more investment, would it not be better to have a consistently high quality level of grass pitch in the Premiership?”
Yesterday, Kilmarnock hit back at Rangers’ criticism of the pitch, with Johnston revealing they had asked the Ibrox club for a retraction.
“It’s disappointing the official Rangers website would carry such an ill-informed comment,” company secretary Michael Johnston told STV.
“The 3G pitch at Rugby Park is not only Fifa 2 star compliant, but also meets the higher standards set by international rugby. We have already hosted the world’s first full rugby international played on a synthetic pitch [Scotland v Tonga, November 2014].
“In January, we hosted Europe’s top club side in Racing 92 in their match with Glasgow Warriors and tomorrow we are hosting the Guinness PRO12 match between Warriors and Munster.
“Clearly there is far more physical contact with the 3G pitch during a rugby match and no player has sustained any injury related to the surface. The IRB require additional shock absorbency and impact protection beyond the requirements for football so the pitch at Rugby Park represents the most forgiving playing surface in Scottish professional football.
“My immediate reaction was the author of the article didn’t know what they were talking about and this is the sort of ill-informed remark people tend to make about synthetic pitches without checking the facts.
“We have endeavoured to contact the chief executive of Rangers and are waiting to have the critical remark removed and we’re currently awaiting a response.”
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