ROB Kiernan, the Rangers centre half, has called on the SPFL to follow the lead of their counterparts in England and ban the use of artificial pitches.
Kiernan is set to be involved in the second of a run of three matches which the Ibrox club have on astroturf in a Scottish Cup fifth round replay against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park tonight.
The 25-year-old will be making a return to a club that he spent two months on loan at as a teenager back in the 2009/10 season. However, he admitted he is not looking forward to playing on the 3G surface in Ayrshire.
Football League clubs in England, where the defender has spent the majority of his career playing, took the decision to ban so-called plastic pitches in 1995 amid widespread complaints and concerns over their effect on players’ health and fitness.
Kiernan believes they give the home club an unfair advantage and take longer to recover from playing on and would like to see the SPFL, who have 12 member clubs with synthetic pitches, seriously examine doing away with them.
“I don’t agree with them at all,” he said. “I think it’s better for the team that trains on them every day. The flight of the ball, the roll of it, everything is so different. Injury-wise it causes nightmares. I’m not a fan of them.
“We don’t have them down south and there’s reasons for that. During the winter when it’s freezing and you have to train it’s fine, but not during the season. The joints and your back suffer. There’s a lot of impact on you.
“It puts more stress on your body so I can see where the concerns about the long-term affect on players come from.”
Kiernan is the latest person in Scottish football to voice his unease about the – PFA Scotland chief executive Fraser Wishart last week called for an official review into their long-term effect on players.
Asked if he would like to see them banned at senior grounds in Scotland, he replied: “I definitely would. It would be better for the game. I don’t see any advantage to them at all. I know there are arguments for them, but that’s my opinion.
“Next year there are going to be astroturf pitches in whatever league we’re in. Kilmarnock and Hamilton have them in the Premiership. We have to get on with it. But I’ve never been used to them and it would be nice to see them gone, to be honest.
“They’re bad for the image of the Scottish game too. Not that I care about what it looks like during games, but when you play a pass and the black pebbles are coming up and the ball doesn’t bounce nicely it doesn’t look great. But it’s not an excuse – everyone has them and we have to get on with it.”
Kiernan has fond memories of his brief stint at Kilmarnock – of his debut in particular. He came on as a substitute against Celtic in a game that Robbie Keane was also making his first appearance for the Rugby Park club in.
He helped Jimmy Calderwood’s side to stop the Republic of Ireland striker from scoring and win the match 1-0. But he revealed that he was fined following the win for lying about his past experience at right back.
“Jimmy Calderwood asked me if I had ever played there before and I said: ‘Yeah, loads of times’,” he said. “But I’d never played there in my life! Anything to get on. Afterwards, he grilled me and told me my positioning wasn’t great. I said that was because I’d never played there before. He said: ‘So you lied to me then?’ He fined me!
“I was just buzzing to get on and it was great. I actually played right back and Marc-Antoine Fortune was at left wing for Celtic. I reminded him that I actually made my debut against him a couple of years ago when we were both at Wigan.
“He said he remembered me because I was a centre back playing at right back! It was just great to get on the pitch as I’d only been there a short while.
“Playing Keane was a joke because he was so sharp.I wasn’t ready for his movement at that time. One moment, he was there, the next moment he wasn’t. It was a great experience and I will always be grateful to Kilmarnock for giving me the chance.”
Rangers have sold out their allocation of tickets for the Scottish Cup replay with Kilmarnock and are expected to take around 8,000 fans to Rugby Park. Kiernan believes that will increase their chances of progressing to the quarter-finals hugely.
“The Rangers fans are amazing,” he said. “They fill out everywhere and we expect that now really. They are the 12th man. Week in, week out they are there wherever we go. They sell-out everywhere. We are desperate to win every game, Kilmarnock in the Cup or Alloa in the league.”