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Kilmarnock v Motherwell: Plastic far from fantastic as complaints reach fever pitch

PLAGUES of locusts, a rain of frogs, the prospect of turning on the tap one morning and having blood trickle out into the sinks of your marble bathhouse.

Craig Reid broke his foot training on a plastic pitch with Celtic under-17s. Picture: SNS
Craig Reid broke his foot training on a plastic pitch with Celtic under-17s. Picture: SNS

Some ancient fears, as the years roll by and we become more convinced of the world's sad lack of magic and mysticism, have lost their relevance to the modern person.

Perhaps one day, the Scottish football supporter of the future might look back and wonder what all the fuss over plastic pitches was about. The players emerging now from our youth systems have been raised on the black turf; once the older guard shuffle off into the sunset, muttering crazily to anyone who'll listen about how 'it's a grass game', it will cease to be an issue.

For now, though, the great debate rumbles on. It seems as though whenever Kilmarnock - or Hamilton Academical - take on someone, the match-day previews are dominated by the same old questions. What do you think of the plastic pitch? Is it dangerous? When these two play each other - September 20, for those interested - the fitba' scribblers will have to rip up the notebook and come up with a few new questions.

The fears of Craig Reid, the Motherwell defender, are at least based on personal experience. "I broke my foot on it," he says. "When I was at Celtic back in the under-17s. We were training, it was the way I checked and I broke my metatarsal. I got stuck on it.

He adds: "I don't like it. I can see the benefits from the clubs' point of view; it's a money-making thing, good for the communities and stuff like that. From a player's point of view I don't really see the benefits."

His manager, Stuart McCall, shares the same view. "Knowing players who have trained on it regularly, it's not done them any good," McCall says. "I know certain players wouldn't be able to train day in, day out on it. That's a fact."

Reid was asked if he knows anyone who actually prefers to play on a plastic pitch. "I've never heard someone come up to me and say 'I really like astrograss', no," he says.

"Maybe there's a couple, I don't know. The ball holds up or it might run through. Some people water the pitches and that makes it better. If it's a dry pitch, it'll bobble, bobble, bobble to you."

Never mind three bobbles, though; Reid and his side need three points. Motherwell were written off last season after a 2-0 defeat to Inverness Caledonian Thistle. They can take heart from how they bounced back then, racing up the league; finishing in second place. A similar response to the same result last weekend is needed today at Rugby Park. "It's been a wee bit disappointing, we haven't matched the standards we've set ourselves," Reid admits.

"People are always wanting to put us down, they never gave us credit last year. Maybe they're always waiting. People knock us before but we just keep going."

Rory McKenzie, the Kilmarnock forward, has enjoyed a bright start to the season. But while his opponents spent the build-up glaring at the turf, the young winger has half an eye on the Ayr. A good performance this afternoon, believes McKenzie, will book a starting berth for Tursday's League Cup derby. "Motherwell's last two seasons speak for themselves," McKenzie said. "They are always up the top. But 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. I know the rivalry well."

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