FA to offer help after Mauricio Pochettino calls Rochdale pitch 'a massive risk'
LONDON -- The Football Association will provide subsidised pitch protection for Rochdale to help ensure that the FA Cup fifth round clash against Tottenham can go ahead, sources have told ESPN FC, after Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino complained it it posed "a massive risk" to players.
Pochettino said the pitch was not "in a condition to play football," and that he would speak to Spurs chairman Daniel Levy on Thursday to discuss the situation ahead of the game at Spotland on Feb. 18.
League One Rochdale's 1-0 fourth-round win over Championship side Millwall was nearly postponed because of the pitch, while recent games against Southend and Wigan were called off after rain left the surface unplayable.
Ground staff slept in the dressing-room at the stadium in order to work intensively on the pitch before the Millwall tie, with the club also hiring a heated dome to protect the surface from the weather.
But with Rochdale due to face Fleetwood Town in a league game on Saturday, the FA are keen to assess the state of the pitch at the beginning of next week before considering what, if any, action to take in terms of game being played as planned at Spotland.
However, in order to help the club avoid the Spurs tie being disrupted or postponed because of the pitch, the FA are prepared to contribute towards the cost of protecting the playing surface from further damage.
Snow is forecast in the Rochdale area for the majority the next week, but there is a hope that the pitch protection measures will enable the fifth round tie to go ahead.
Spurs booked a trip to the 10,000-capacity Crown Oil Arena in Greater Manchester after beating Newport County 2-0 in Wednesday's FA Cup fourth replay at Wembley.
Pochettino said: "We are going to struggle, not only us but them too. I think the FA need to assess how the pitch is and then take a decision if it's good for the FA Cup, the players and the teams to play on a type of pitch in that condition.
"I don't think it helps football. I don't know why it happened to the pitch, but it's true that through pictures I think it's not a pitch in a condition to play football.
"For the opponent too, it's about providing a safe place to play for the players. It's a big risk to play on a pitch like this, if the picture gave us the accurate state.
"If it's like I saw in the picture, I think you cannot play football. But not because we are Tottenham. I think Rochdale cannot play football too there, and it's a massive risk for their players too.
"I'm going to speak with the chairman and, with the club, try to find a solution or to see what we can do. It's important, and I'm going to see him and try to talk with him and see if we can find some solution."
Asked if he would bring the chairman, whose birthday is on Thursday, a present, Pochettino said: "Yes! Myself."
Spurs host North London rivals Arsenal on Saturday and the manager has a full squad to choose from, including £24.5 million January signing Lucas Moura.
The winger joined on deadline day from Paris Saint-Germain, having made just six substitutes appearances this season, and has been training with the Spurs squad since Saturday.
"I think he will be ready to be in contention for Saturday," Pochettino said. "He's doing well, training so hard, he's starting to feel his legs. And yes we need to assess him tomorrow after the last training session but I hope's he's doing well and we can put him in contention."
Pochettino added that he was yet to make a decision on whether Toby Alderweireld would start after the centre-back played 90 minutes against Newport on his first appearance since Nov. 1.