Hibs reveal Easter Road pitch plans as Shaun Maloney echoes Jack Ross concerns - but cost an issue

Hibs say they are well aware of the issues caused by the Easter Road playing surface after manager Shaun Maloney echoed his predecessor’s concerns about players’ ability to get the ball down and play the kind of entertaining football the club wants to deliver.

Early last year the then Hibs boss Jack Ross and his players spoke out about the condition of the pitch, citing limited resources due to the pandemic and the tight schedule, allied to the clusters of home games during the worst of the winter weather, as reasons for the deterioration.

“It is hard,” said Ross, “and for the ball-carrying players it’s nigh on impossible. Even moving the ball side to side becomes hard.”

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Defender Paul McGinn agreed, describing the Leith pitch as “a bit of a mess” and explaining that players were “having to take an extra touch which makes it all too slow”.

Hibs hope to replace their weather-worn pitch with a hybrid surface in 2023. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

A year on and the club are making plans to tackle the problematic surface, albeit in 2023.

“We are in the process of trying to work out what is best for the pitch,” explained Maloney. “It is not just this season, even last year, as I’m watching games back, I can see it was similar.

“We have a really good groundsman, who works incredibly hard, but we need to support him and we are looking at what we can do. For the players and for the match, it would be great if we could have a really top pitch. I think that would be a really big help for the players and those watching.”

But, with the cost of laying a hybrid Desso pitch, which is the preferred option, running well into six figures, chief executive Ben Kensell has said that while everyone is well aware of the need to improve the pitch, Hibs are unlikely to be in a position to complete the overhaul this summer.

“It is a problem and I don't actually think it is of [the groundsman] Colin’s making. There is a challenge with the circulation of air and light at Easter Road, where the pitch gets a fair amount of sun in the very early morning, but for the rest of the day we get very little. We do have heat lamps to try to improve that but it is fundamentally a case of rip it up and start again.

“We can’t afford to do that this summer but we then need to do it next summer. That is the challenge at the moment because to pay for something like that you are talking £600,000-£700,000 for a Desso pitch, which is what all the top teams have. It is not a grass pitch, it is something like 60% synthetic and 40% grass and that is what we had at Charlton and at Norwich and it is quite an undertaking but the issue is more around the cost.

“I think that is something we will have to end up doing, both at HTC and at Easter Road. But that is £1.5m, which is a lot when fans will say we should be spending that on players.

“It is all fine wanting the best players on the pitch but those players need a really good surface to play on or, quite frankly, they can’t play.”

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