Okon slams ’embarrassing’ Allianz pitch

By , Emma Kemp is a Roar Guru

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    Sydney FC have again complained to the SCG Trust about the poor state of Allianz Stadium’s pitch, lambasted as “embarrassing” by Central Coast coach Paul Okon.

    A stunned Okon declared Friday night’s 1-0 Sky Blues win should have been postponed or shifted elsewhere, and hoped the continually patchy multi-purpose surface did not rob the A-League leaders of their home advantage at the season’s most important time.

    Last month the Sydney Sevens rugby tournament was to blame, and Sydney’s fee for the surface duly waived.

    This time it was rugby league, specifically the Roosters-Bulldogs NRL clash and corresponding under-20s fixture just 24 hours prior.

    “A few weeks ago everyone was throwing their arms up and crying about the results from the Roar and the Wanderers in the ACL,” Okon said.

    “If you’re going to deliver a pitch like that we’ve got bigger problems. That was embarrassing.

    “I don’t think the game should have been held to be honest.

    “It just shows where we are as a football nation.

    “I hope for them (Sydney) it doesn’t become an issue. It would be really disappointing because they’ve been marvellous all season.

    “They deserve to be on a better pitch.”

    Sydney coach Graham Arnold was comparatively restrained but admitted the sub-standard surface had burdened his uncharacteristically tame table-toppers and suggested the under-20s league games at least be relocated.

    Defender Alex Wilkinson described it as “pretty average”.

    “The bounce, it’s difficult to play into midfield,” Wilkinson said.

    “When the pitch is like that it can turn into a scrap.”

    The situation is precisely what the Sky Blues don’t want in their final two regular-season home games, semi-final and potential grand final at the venue.

    The Roosters play Manly at Allianz the day before Sydney’s return against Melbourne City on April 1.

    And, more crucially, the NSW Waratahs host Super Rugby rivals the Blues the day before the May 7 grand final.

    That’s before factoring in the Socceroos’ crunch World Cup qualifier against the UAE on March 28, before which groundskeepers have a 10-day period to clean up the pitch after a Waratahs-Brumbies match.

    Sydney chief executive Tony Pignata confirmed the club had taken the issue up with the SCG Trust and was confident it would be in “perfect condition” come finals time.

    “I have articulated to Jamie (Barkley), the CEO, that we’re not happy with the quality of the pitch and something needs to be done about it,” Pignata told AAP.

    “We understand it is a multi-purpose (venue), but it still hasn’t recovered from the rugby sevens and we’re coming into the important part of the season for us and you’ve got the Socceroos game on March 28.

    “They need to move as many games as they can off the pitch and play what needs to be played.”

    © AAP 2017

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