Melbourne City Head Coach Rado Vidošić has added to the growing condemnation of the Epping Stadium surface that hosted the W-League Melbourne Derby.
Victory downed City 1-0 in the meeting between the two sides on Saturday; Christine Nairn’s 88th-minute wonder-strike scored directly from a corner stealing the tree points for Victory in a contest that they were predominantly outplayed.
Much of the discussions following the game, however, has been on the sub-standard playing surface that the encounter took place on.
Also the condition of the Epping Stadium pitch is a scandal and shows a complete lack of care or interest in the spectacle or perception of the #MelbDerby and the #WLeague widely. Surely Hume, Kingston Heath or even Veneto synthetic is a better option than this… pic.twitter.com/Imb3TeTH5E
— Teo Pellizzeri (@teopellizzeri) January 5, 2019
— Joey Lynch (@joeylynchy) January 5, 2019
The PFA, in their regular Talking Points Tuesday feature on social media, has already launched a stinging rebuke of the surface, labelling it as an “Epping Fail” and quoting players that stated that the surface was “Not of FFA standard,” “Not in accordance with our CBA,” and “Reflects poorly on women’s sport”.
🗣️ The unacceptable pitch for the #WLeague Melbourne derby on Saturday was an ‘Epping fail’ 🤦♀️, putting players at serious risk of injury. This must be addressed before Victory returns to the venue on January 27. 🗓️ pic.twitter.com/jFGJHdCbDq
— The PFA (@thepfa) January 8, 2019
Speaking to the media on Thursday morning, Vidošić added to the growing backlash.
“We tried to talk to the (match) commissioner and the referees and tell them that the surface was very dangerous – soft underneath, loose, uneven and lots of holes,” The Melbourne City boss said.
“Whoever was looking after that field didn’t really spend enough time (on the pitch) over Christmas, maybe they had holidays.
“Our girls were very sore 2-3 days after the game because of the uneven and soft surface, we had to change our training program to accommodate. Luckily, we avoided any major injuries.
“I don’t think we should promote the W-League on surfaces like that, especially when those games are televised across the world.
“The ball slowed down, and girls had problems moving the ball from under their feet – the perfect example was Tameka (Butt’s) one on one with the keeper when (the ball got stuck) under her feet.
“Luckily, we didn’t have any injuries because of the field, I’m not sure about Victory.”
Victory is next scheduled to play at Epping Stadium on 27 January, when they host Sydney FC in the W-League Big Blue a day after the A-League version is played at AAMI Park.
With Victory featuring Matildas representatives such as Laura Alleway and Emily Gielnik and Sydney FC featuring a bevy of internationals such as Lisa De Vanna, Alanna Kennedy, Caitlin Foord, Chloe Logarzo and Princess Ibini; a sizable portion of Australia’s theoretical World Cup squad will potentially be taking part in that game.
Asked if he thought that the Epping Stadium surface presented on Saturday would be safe to play on for such a large contingent of the Matildas’ squad, Vidošić was clear in his feelings.
“Absolutely not (safe),” he said.
“We tried to speak to the (match) commissioner, we tried to contact (FFA), we tried everything to help our national team to not get any more injuries because they’ve already got a few they must deal with.
“There was no-one there to check the field, maybe because of the closeness to Christmas and New Year’s.
“Definitely it was not safe. So, unless they improve it, I would suggest to take it somewhere else.”
In his press conference, Vidošić also confirmed that attacker Jasmyn Spencer, who missed the Melbourne Derby due to a university interview, would return for City in their clash with Brisbane Roar at AAMI Park on Friday night.
The City gaffer then revealed that in the wake of striker Jodie Taylor’s return to England City were investigating the possibility of adding another guest player to their squad, but called the possibility a “long shot.”
He then ruled out that American international Lynn Williams, rumoured to be the player in question, was joining the club.
UPDATE – 4:10pm:
PFA Deputy Chief Executive Kathryn Gill has released a statement on in response to Saturdays’ game.
“In football, the quality of a pitch is symbolic of respect for players,” Gill said in a statement.
“In the case of Saturday’s derby, the players unanimously voiced that the surface was wholly unsatisfactory.
“Since the match we have spoken at length with Melbourne Victory and, encouragingly, they have put steps in place to ensure the best possible surface for their next home match.”