SCOTTISH football is damaging its image as a result of the proliferation of synthetic playing surfaces in the senior game, according to Rangers manager Mark Warburton.
The Englishman takes his team to face Alloa tomorrow at the Indodrill Stadium, one of 11 venues in the SPFL which no longer has a grass pitch.
Rangers struggled there last season, dropping two league points and also being knocked out of the Petrofac Training Cup by the Clackmannanshire side.
Warburton insists he will not accept the pitch as an excuse for any failure of Rangers to collect all three points tomorrow as they look to maintain their 100 per cent winning start to his tenure. But the former Brentford manager has revealed he has been taken aback by the number of non-grass pitches in Scottish football.
They have been banned in English football since 1995 and a move to reintroduce them at League One and League Two level last year was rejected by Football League clubs.
“It is another debate for another day but I am surprised by the number of artificial pitches up here,” said Warburton.
“There are no excuses for our players. We know it’s there and we have to go and deal with it. That’s not an issue at all and there is no negativity in that respect.
“But looking at it as an outsider coming in, I am surprised and there is food for thought there. There are none of them in England. You have to go back to the old days when QPR and Luton had them. Having played on both, I paid the price for it!
“It’s a bigger debate, in my mind, when you are looking at the quality of product. At a time when Scottish football is trying to look forward and attract investment to the game, I think it’s important that the quality of product is looked at.
“That’s not being disrespectful to any club. I just think it’s important that you look at the product because at the end of the day, you have TV viewers watching it and things like that. It’s maybe a conversation for another occasion.”
Warburton took his squad to Alloa earlier this week for a training session on the pitch and stresses that he has no concerns about the influence it will have on the match.
“There is no negativity from us,” he added. “We are not worried about the pitch. Alloa will be a determined, well-organised team. They’ve had a rough start to the season and they’ll be looking to do well in front of their home fans.
“Our job is to go there and perform to the best of our ability. If we do that, we’ll be in good shape. But we can’t let our standards drop. Whatever surface we play on – grass, artificial, 4G, 3G, or clay – it is about your mindset and ours has to be positive.”
Rangers will have new loan duo Dominic Ball and Nathan Oduwa in their squad tomorrow following the completion of their season-long moves from Tottenham.
Warburton is enthused by the potential of 20-year-old defender Ball and 19-year-old midfielder Oduwa. He expects both players to have a significant role in Rangers’ quest for the Championship title.
“David Weir and I will never take loan signings we don’t intend to utilise,” said Warburton. “There is no point taking them on just to make up numbers.
“All that does is irritate the players and irritate the parent clubs. We are keen on a lean, hungry squad. We are still light on numbers. So both lads will get a lot of pitch time, I’ve no doubt about that.
“But Spurs are very good in that they are our players now and there is no guarantee for any player. We wouldn’t take on any player on the basis of him being guaranteed a starting place.
“Spurs have a tremendous academy there, their director John McDermott does an outstanding job. Look at the players they have produced. In their current first team there is Ryan Mason, Nabil Bentaleb, Harry Kane and Alex Pritchard. They have also produced players like Jake Livermore, Tom Huddlestone and Steven Caulker.
“So it is great for us to have that relationship with them. We have to make sure we create that environment here where their players can be assets as well.
“Nathan has had a full pre-season with the Spurs first team and played against Real Madrid. He’s had good minutes on the pitch in pre-season.
“He’s got good physicality and will fit well into the squad.
“It’s the same with Dominic. I had him at Watford when he was much younger. He is a youth international with England now and there is a lot of potential there. I’m sure it will be a beneficial loan for all parties.”