Scotland coach Anna Signeul says she may have to consider scrapping home fixtures in June because of problems finding suitable grass pitches.
Her side play Slovenia tonight in their latest Euro 2017 qualifier at the Paisley 2021 Stadium, and a fifth successive Group 1 win would move the Scots closer to next summer’s finals in the Netherlands.
While the two previous home games were also played on grass during one of the wettest winters on record, finding a Uefa-compliant grass pitch for the remaining tie, against top seeds Iceland on 3 June, has proved impossible.
The game, which will go a long way to deciding which of the two countries will win the group and therefore qualify automatically for the finals, is instead to be played on the artificial surface at the Falkirk Stadium.
Ironically, Euro 2016 is the reason why there are no grass pitches available in June – even though Scotland won’t be there.
“It’s unfortunately a fact that in the years there are men’s Euros we also have our qualifiers in June,” Signeul pointed out. “Because of the men’s Euros they stop the leagues earlier, so our game against Iceland is in the maintenance season for grass pitches.”
Hearts, Hibs, Dundee United, St Mirren and Motherwell were among the clubs who actively wanted to stage the vital Euro 2017 qualifier, arguably the most important game Scotland’s women have ever played. Approaches were also made to Ross County, Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Aberdeen, but all needed to restore their pitches following the ravages of a sodden winter.
“There were so many clubs who wanted to have this game but couldn’t,” Signeul confirmed. “They needed to do the maintenance and put down new grass.
“I definitely understand the clubs’ point of view, and as far as Hampden is concerned it’s the season for having concerts unfortunately.
“Maybe for forthcoming campaigns we have to look at whether we can play at home in June at all. We might have to choose to have an away game instead, but as the summer evenings are a great time to play football that’s a shame.”
Bizarre though the circumstances are, Scotland can move six points ahead of the Icelanders tonight, albeit having played two games more, with a win over Slovenia.
Signeul’s side won the corresponding match 3-0 in Ajdovscina last September courtesy of a Kim Little hat-trick. Slovenia’s best player that day, captain Mateja Sver, misses tonight due to injury .
Scotland have only central defender Jenny Beattie out and are well covered in that area.
With Ifeoma Dieke, who also missed last month’s friendly draw against Spain, back in the squad Signeul can bring her in or retain Hibs captain Joelle Murray and Rachel Corsie.
Jane Ross, who scored her first goal for new club Manchester City last week, will again lead the attack. She bagged six in the previous two home games against Belarus and Macedonia, but Slovenia are of a higher standard.