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Aug 22, 2014

McCall bemoans artificial pitches

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Motherwell manager Stuart McCall felt his preparations for the new Scottish Premiership season were scuppered by an artificial pitch - so he is less than enthused by Kilmarnock's new surface.

Motherwell lost the likes of Simon Ramsden, Steven Hammell and Iain Vigurs to injury for the opening games and other players had to play through knocks after his side returned from Europa League defeat on the plastic park of Stjarnan.

McCall feels first-football should always be played on grass but his side become the second opponents on the Rugby Park FieldTurf pitch.

McCall said: "Apparently when it's dry it can be really sticky and I don't think they have a great capacity to water the park. But we have just got to be focused on the game.

"I understand, it's the market. Hamilton and Kilmarnock will be using their artificial pitches for commercial activities and the community, but for actual games, I'm not with them at all.

"I played on them years ago, and obviously they are better now, but some are better than others. If you can get them soaked they can be okay, but if you can't it's not a true run of the ball.

"I understand why clubs have got them, for financial reasons, but for me football should be played on grass.

"If you've got young kids using it every night for technical skills, that can only help develop players. For actual competitive games, I like the way ball moves on the grass.

"There will be times in January, parks will be shocking and there will be mud baths, so at least you know you will be getting a decent surface, although it might not run as truly as you would like.

"There's fors and againsts but knowing players who have trained on it regularly, it's not done them any good.

"I know certain players wouldn't be able to train day in, day out on it. That's a fact.

"In fact, we had three missing after the Stjarnan game after we trained twice on it and played on it over in Iceland."

Motherwell defender Craig Reid has also been playing through injury since the Iceland trip and he is not a fan of plastic pitches either.

"Personally, I don't really like it to be honest," he said. "I think it is harsh on the joints: the ankles, the knees and the hips.

"I don't think it is true as grass but that's the way it is, it's far more common in the game now so we just have to get used to it.

"It's possibly to Kilmarnock's advantage given they'll train on it most days but we've got the facilities too. At Dalziel Park there are two brand new astroturf pitches that we use occasionally, so it is not something we're not used to.

"You've just got to approach it the same way you would going into any game or challenge. It's maybe checking off that's a little bit different, the ball doesn't run through as much and it holds up a bit. Other times it is wet and the opposite is the case."

Motherwell are looking to bounce back from consecutive defeats but their injury list worsened when they lost Lee Erwin and David Ferguson this week. McCall has a problem at left-back as Ferguson had been deputising for Hammell and Zaine Francis-Angol, who remain out.

On-loan Derby defender Mark O'Brien could make his debut on Saturday. Adam Cummins and Simon Ramsden remain out.

Kilmarnock forward Rory McKenzie has added incentive to play well against Motherwell - as he is desperate to keep his place for the Ayrshire derby.

Killie host Motherwell four days before local rivals Ayr make the short journey to Rugby Park in the second round of the League Cup.

And McKenzie, who hails from nearby Troon, knows helping Allan Johnston's team to victory over Motherwell could seal his spot for a game he is eager to sample.

The 20-year-old said: "Motherwell's last two seasons speak for themselves. They are always up the top. But I feel this is a good chance for us, especially with people wanting to play on Tuesday against Ayr, they will need to play well on Saturday.

"I was involved at one at youth-team level and even then at Somerset there was a lot of people there.

"I was only young and Somerset was pretty full so I'm buzzing for it. I know the rivalry well."

The striker has started the season playing in right midfield with his task in last week's victory at Ross County to supply balls for powerful strike force Michael Ngoo and Josh Magennis.

"I enjoying playing wide right," McKenzie said.

"I was playing through the middle in pre-season with Lee Miller and I enjoyed that, but I'm just happy to be playing. There are a lot of good players who are not in the team right now.

"It gives you more of a chance to play if you can play two or three positions."

Miller has recovered from a calf strain and Motherwell manager Allan Johnston could have a full squad available.

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