Ronny Deila has described opposition to artificial pitches as “old fashioned” and revealed that he would be content to see one installed at Celtic Park.
The Norwegian also hit back at claims, made last week by Rangers manager Mark Warburton, that synthetic surfaces contribute to more serious injuries for players.
The issue has been a hot topic in Scottish football since details emerged of a PFA survey in which almost 75 per cent of players in the country expressed a preference for grass pitches.
There are now 11 grounds in the SPFL with artificial pitches, including both Rugby Park and New Douglas Park in the Premiership.
Rangers striker Martyn Waghorn could miss the rest of the season due to a knee injury he sustained in a Scottish Cup tie at Rugby Park last week, prompting Warburton’s complaint that the pitch had been a factor in the extent of the damage. The former Brentford boss has also called for artificial pitches to be banned from the top flight, as they are throughout the English senior game.
But Deila has rejected that notion, with the Celtic manager stating that high-quality synthetic turf could actually help improve the standard of Scottish football. Ahead of Celtic’s visit to Hamilton tomorrow night, where they will play on an artificial pitch Deila does not like and describes as “not normal”, he also called for increased funding for a higher standard of surfaces – as has been the case in his homeland.
“In Norway, half of the top league play on artificial pitches and that has been a positive thing,” said Deila. “That is why there have been so many more talented players coming from Norway in the last few years.
“My view is that a very good grass pitch is number one and then a very good artificial pitch is number two. What is important is that if we get more artificial pitches in Scotland, they have to be of the best quality.
“You also have to treat them in a very good way, the same as natural grass. If not, they get flat, harder and more slippy. It’s normally not a problem here, but every artificial pitch should be watered because that makes the game quicker and more entertaining to watch.
“There is much more risk of injury if it is dry, because then you have friction as a bigger problem. If you water it, there is no science that says an artificial pitch is more dangerous or causes more injuries.
“There is no truth in that, I can assure you. There has been a lot of research into that and there’s nothing to say you get more injuries on artificial.
“Go out there on our artificial surface on our training ground, that’s a good one. And we keep it like that.
“You can also think, if we had it at Celtic Park, all the teams could play there. Imagine what Celtic Park could be.
“You could train there every day, you could be very familiar with it, get perfect circumstances all the time. So there are a lot of positive things.
“I would say yes to an artificial pitch at Celtic Park. I wouldn’t have a problem with it.
“It has to be perfect, with a proper watering system, but yes.
“I think it would take a few years to get to that stage. In 20 years’ time the artificial pitches are going to be unbelievably good.
“I was also very sceptical when I was a player, I wasn’t sure about artificial pitches. But I played my last year on artificial and it was okay, no problem.
“In my view, it is very old fashioned to say they should not be for professional football.
“Again, a bad artificial pitch is just a bad pitch. The problem in Scotland is that, like in a lot of small countries, there isn’t so much money to invest in football.
“If you have the money they have in England, you will get a perfect grass pitch all the time because they can afford to work on them all the time.
“It’s much harder to keep the grass pitches in good condition here. That’s when it’s good to have good quality artificial pitches.
“I think the one at Kilmarnock here is okay, when it is watered. The Hamilton one should also be okay, but it’s slippy. I don’t know why, it’s not normal. You can see that it’s not the best quality.
“I haven’t seen a top, top quality one in Scottish football yet. The one we have at our training ground is the best.”