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By ESPN Staff

O'Connor warns England over plastic pitch

Scotland striker Garry O'Connor has painted a disturbing picture ahead of England's Euro 2008 qualifier on an artificial surface in Russia, describing the pitch as 'a nightmare'.

The Birmingham striker, who returned to Britain from a spell with Lokomotiv Moscow in the summer, believes Russia's choice of the Luzhniki Stadium as venue is 'psychological warfare'.

O'Connor said in his Sunday Telegraph column: 'I've been a popular man this week: not only have Scotland taken a another huge step towards qualifying for Euro 2008, but I'm also pretty much the only British footballer to have had the misfortune of playing on the plastic pitch that England are going to be playing on in Moscow.

'Players, journalists and fans have been after me to find out what it's like. And the answer isn't good. I had a fantastic time in Russia playing for Lokomotiv Moscow, but playing on that pitch was certainly not a highlight.

'I played in a cup final there last season and it was a nightmare. The next day you are as sore as hell, so I cannot imagine how Michael Owen is going to feel after playing on it just a couple of weeks after an operation. Frankly, I don't think FIFA should allow qualifying matches to be played on that surface.'

O'Connor warned the ground-staff will actively make the pitch as awkward as possible.

'The other thing that people don't realise about this pitch is that the Russians will absolutely flood it with water before the game. Your boots get completely soaked as soon as you go onto it - something you don't enjoy when the temperature plummets.

'The ball skids off the surface, so it becomes extremely hard to read where it is going to go. It will take some getting used to. I'm sure the England boys will have a chance to play on it the day before, but they will always be playing catch up.

'My Russian team-mates hated playing on it too, but at least they are used to it. The artificial turf has been there for four or five years.

'I think there is an element of psychological warfare about the choice of pitch, because several of their other qualifiers have been played on grass. It looks like they are trying to shake England out of their comfort zone.'