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Whitey Anderson: Pitches in Danske Bank Premiership are a disgrace

By Billy Weir

Ballinamallard United boss Whitey Anderson may have guided his side to survival this season but life's a pain in the grass for the Ferney Park chief.

The lush green sward of the Fermanagh side's home is very much an exception in the Danske Bank Premiership and with the league crown having gone to teams with 3G pitches in the past three seasons, it would certainly suggest that those grinding their way through muddy quagmires are fighting a losing battle.

"I think the pitches in the Irish League, by and large, are an absolute disgrace," blasted Anderson.

"If you're looking for the product to improve then you have to improve the pitches. Some people seem more interested in improving floodlighting, terracing and whatever but they play out on the pitch and if you improve the surfaces then people can play football.

"I think the majority of teams in the league try to get the ball down and play but sometimes that is not possible."

While he has grounds for concern, the solution for Anderson is not to cut out the grass and install synthetic surfaces.

"I'm definitely not a fan of 3G pitches," he added. "We have one beside our ground as a training pitch but I'm certainly not a fan of them. There is talk of a lot of plastic pitches coming into the league but for me plastic pitches make a plastic league, it's just a false league. Putting matches on 3G just makes them a glorified training game. I just don't believe in them at all."

But it's certainly not all doom and gloom for one of the local game's true characters, a man who lives and breathes football and is unashamedly only too happy to crow about the amazing rise in fortunes for the Mallards, who have now completed their fourth season at the top level, finishing tomorrow with a home game against Warrenpoint Town.

"We're a small club, we're definitely the smallest club in the league, we have a village of 1,800 people and it has been a big journey to get here and our intention is to stay and see if we can sustain it," he explained.

"It's not being negative, we want to stay in the league and see if we can improve each year, but we know it's going to be difficult.

"The European money has come in now and I think the rich are going to get richer and the poorer are going to get poorer.

"We're in year four now so I think the club and the players deserve a bit of credit.

"I heard Darren Murphy saying last week that Dungannon have been in the league for 13 years and don't get the credit they deserve. They've done a great job to stay in the league for 13 years. You have the Belfast sides, Ballymena, Coleraine, Portadown and Glenavon - that's eight teams out of your 12 - and Dungannon have been there 13 years so the rest of the country is fighting for three places.

"People always say to me 'you've got a big catchment area' but Fermanagh has a population of 60,000 people. Lisburn Council has 62,000, and that's the reality.

"It's hard to get the quality of players we need unless you go down south and you have to try and bring in one or two players of your own each season through the youth section and that's something we work very hard at.

"I think there are thin margins between all of the teams, it's about consistency and having a few pound to get the players in, Glenavon have proven that.

"Gary Hamilton has signed goalscorers, and that's probably the difference and that's why they are and where they are."

Given a fair crack of the whip and some decent pitches and the Mallards will look to continue to swim against the tide next season.

Belfast Telegraph


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