Rangers have renewed their condemnation of the synthetic playing surface at Rugby Park as they face the prospect of a lengthy spell on the sidelines for Jamie Murphy with the knee injury he suffered in their 3-1 Betfred Cup victory over Kilmarnock.
The 28-year-old was led away on a stretcher in the 17th minute after appearing to jar his left leg on the pitch.
It took the shine off another otherwise positive outing for Rangers under manager Steven Gerrard who insisted afterwards that artificial surfaces should not be allowed in top flight football.
Rangers captain James Tavernier was even stronger in his criticism of the Rugby Park surface, claiming Murphy’s injury simply would not have happened on a grass pitch.
Kilmarnock are one of three Scottish Premiership clubs who now have synthetic pitches, along with Hamilton and Livingston. The Ayrshire club’s surface was previously slammed by Rangers in February 2016 when striker Martyn Waghorn suffered a knee injury on it which kept him out for almost three months.
Murphy, who left the stadium with his knee in a brace, could face an even longer lay-off if initial concerns over his injury are realised.
“Jamie is sad, he’s upset, I think he’s fearing the worst,” said Gerrard. “We’re devastated for him. That’s the only downer for us today, we’re going away on the back of a fantastic victory at a difficult place but it’s come at a cost because Jamie looks like he’ll be missing for quite a while.
“We’ll get him checked out and we’ll do the tests and the examinations, we hope it’s not as bad as we’re first fearing.
“We all know that plastic pitches are not as safe as grass - that’s fact, that’s simple. But I’m not here to disrespect Kilmarnock and their playing facilities. I know that it’s a big help to Kilmarnock having a plastic pitch, it helps support the running of their football club. So I’m not going to show them any kind of disrespect but my opinion is elite football shouldn’t have any plastic pitches. We’re dealing with elite footballers, who earn an awful lot of money, and I think for every club worldwide it’s safer to have a grass pitch. Other people might have a different opinion to that but I think if you ask any manager worldwide, they’d all prefer grass and I do.
“If you ask Jamie right now, he’ll say it was because of a pitch incident. I don’t want to dive in too quick, we’ll wait and see what the examinations say but we’re all fearing the worst.”
Tavernier expressed his exasperation at the proliferation of artificial surfaces despite a PFA Scotland survey of players last season clearly branding those at Kilmarnock and Hamilton as the worst in the country.
“I guarantee you that Jamie wouldn’t have the injury that he got today if it had been a grass pitch,” said Tavernier. “He planted his foot, got a wee nudge and then just felt something go. If that’s on grass, that’s not going to happen.
“That is twice now I have been to this stadium when a player has suffered a bad injury. First it was Waggy and now it is Jamie. These astroturf pitches are always a hazard and are always going to cause injuries to any professional.
“If you are a Premiership team, you should be playing on grass. The PFA asked us to do the survey and rate every pitch and obviously we rated all the astroturf pitches badly. You feel more wear and tear on your legs after playing on them. Something has to be done.
“Livingston have just come up and have been allowed to put an astroturf pitch down. It is something that is disappointing. You don’t want to see it in our league. But obviously it is down to the league, not the PFA.”