Mark Warburton says he has been left “bemused” by Alloa Athletic being allowed to narrow their artificial pitch for tomorrow’s visit of Rangers.
The Ibrox manager believes clubs should declare a pitch size at the start of the season and be required to retain those dimensions throughout.
Warburton’s questioning of Alloa’s redrawing of their playing surface – which they also did for the recent encounter with Falkirk – drew a stinging rebuke from the club’s chairman Mike Mulraney but the Englishman stressed he did not want it presented as if he were up in arms over a perceived anomaly.
“I’m bemused you can change the pitch’s dimension midway through the season. I’ve never heard of it down south, it’s highly unusual – and quite so significantly as well. It’s not a couple of feet, it’s 30 plus feet,” said Warburton. “Alloa did it when their new manager took over, they haven’t just done it for this one game and it’s up to them what they want to do. But it’s up to us to show the right mentality when they get there and try and keep the ball as long as we can and get the three points. We believe in ourselves and we’ve got to go and get the job done.”
Mulraney gave Warburton short shrift. “Everyone knew the rules at the start of the season and if some don’t choose to read them it’s not my issue,” the Alloa chairman said. “We waited until midway through the season, when every club had played at our ground once, before applying to change the dimensions.
“It was magnanimous of us to wait until after our ninth home game in the league and if other clubs don’t like it, change the rules. We have noted the past successes of other clubs, including Rangers in Europe, in adopting such a process. If it worked for them, why shouldn’t we follow their lead? It’s not my fault if other clubs are not reading the rules. Alloa were not successful in the first half of the season, so why wouldn’t we want to introduce changes?”
The reference to Rangers in Europe relates to former manager Graeme Souness seeking to nullify the wing play of Dynamo Kiev by narrowing the Ibrox pitch when the teams faced each other in September 1986. The controversial tactic proved successful as Souness’s side claimed the 2-0 win they required in the deciding leg of a first round European Cup tie. Warburton addressed this case of pitch meddling wearily.
“It was 30 years ago,” Warburton said. “I wasn’t part of Rangers and I would never personally do it. That’s not criticism of Graeme [Souness]. But what happened was 30 years ago and every time I mention this pitch someone throws Dynamo Kiev at me.”
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