FA Cup tie set to go ahead at Rochdale despite protest from Tottenham camp
Rochdale’s midweek cup clash with Millwall was played on a sand-covered surface.
Mauricio Pochettino has called on the Football Association to intervene over the state of Rochdale’s pitch ahead of Tottenham’s visit in the FA Cup later this month.
But Press Association Sport understands it is extremely unlikely Spurs will succeed in any attempt to switch the venue away from the Crown Oil Arena.
Instead, the FA will offer Rochdale a ‘subsidised pitch protection service’ which, if accepted, would include providing the League One side with extra groundsmen, kit and equipment ahead of the fixture.
🎥 | Check out how Dale booked their spot in the fifth round of the #EmiratesFACup on Tuesday night via our #PitchsideCam, courtesy of @robpjanderson 👏— Rochdale AFC (@officiallydale) February 8, 2018
The full video is FREE to watch on iFollow!
👉 https://t.co/PrpunzoJpl #RAFC pic.twitter.com/BcLtxVuTQv
Venues can be changed in extreme circumstances, such as a pitch sitting under water, but there is concern about setting a precedent for bigger clubs complaining and smaller clubs agreeing to swap for financial reasons.
Tottenham face Rochdale on February 18 in the fifth round, after easing past Newport at Wembley on Wednesday.
Rochdale had won at home to Millwall 24 hours earlier and after the match both managers commented on the dreadful quality of the surface.
Pochettino said he was due to speak to Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy on Thursday afternoon and he hopes a solution to Rochdale’s pitch can be found.
“I think you are going to struggle no? Not only us, them too,” Pochettino said.
“I think the FA needs to assess the pitch and then to take a decision if it is good for the FA Cup, good for the players, for the team and players to play on this type of pitch.
“In that condition, I think it doesn’t help football. I don’t know why or what happened on the pitch but through the pictures, I think it is not a pitch in a condition to play football.”
KH QUOTES | A lot of voluntary man hours have gone into preparing the pitch. Those supporters [who helped out] deserve that performance from the players tonight. The work that was put in to ensure this game went ahead was tremendous #RAFC pic.twitter.com/spIDxEWORo— Rochdale AFC (@officiallydale) February 6, 2018
Asked if the pitch could be dangerous for the players, Pochettino said: “Yes but I think the opponent too, eh? I think it is about providing a safe place to play for the players.
“I think it is a big risk to play on a pitch like this, if the pictures give us an accurate state. If it is like what I saw in the pictures I don’t think you can play football.
“Not because we are Tottenham – Rochdale I think too cannot play there. It is a massive risk for their players too. The FA needs to go in and take a good decision for football.”
Rochdale’s previous two home League One games against Southend and Wigan were postponed, while last weekend’s Rochdale Hornets match against Batley Bulldogs in rugby league’s Betfred Championship was called off.
A statement from the Hornets read: “Rochdale AFC have installed a dome-type pitch cover to dry the surface out to allow them to access to carry out vital drainage repairs which will involve a ‘drill and fill’ technique to drain surface water.”
For now, Spurs must turn their attention back to the Premier League and a crunch north London derby against Arsenal on Saturday.
Tottenham are unbeaten in 11 games, and victory at Wembley this weekend would leave Arsenal with a mountain to climb to finish in the top four.
Pochettino has not given up hope even of pipping Manchester United to second.
“Yes, I believe [we can finish second]. I’m a person that believes and of course we’re going to fight for that to happen,” Pochettino said. “The gap [seven points] is not massive but it will be tough.”
Toby Alderweireld could start against Arsenal after playing 90 minutes against Newport, which was his first appearance since November 1, while January signing Lucas Moura is set to be involved for the first time.
“I think he will be ready to be in contention for Saturday,” Pochettino said.
“He is starting to feel the legs. I feel we need to assess him tomorrow but after the last session tomorrow I hope we can put him in contention.”