Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, has defended a decision to invest an estimated £1m installing a new state-of-the-art playing surface at Bramall Lane, writes James Shield.
Critics of the scheme, which The Star first revealed in February, argue the money would be better spent enhancing the former England international’s squad following its failure to reach the Championship last term.
But Clough, who began lobbying for the DESSO surface last summer, insisted it will only enhance United’s prospects of securing promotion next season.
“There’s no point in bringing in good players, which we have, then asking them to perform at their maximum on something that isn’t up to scratch,” he said. “The better the player, the better the pitch then the better chance of putting in a good performance, surely?
“One of our best performances last season was when we beat Bristol City away. They’ve got exactly the same (pitch) at their place.
“That win was no fluke. It was deserved and we controlled nearly all of the game against opposition who went on to top the division.”
“There’s no criticism of our groundstaff involved in this,” Clough added. “Because they do a brilliant job. Sometimes, though, nature just gets in the way. You can’t get around that but this should help.”
United were the first club in the region to commit to the project after generating significant unexpected revenue by reaching the semi-finals of both the FA and Capital One cups since Clough was appointed 19 months ago. However, the work was delayed due to their involvement in the play-offs.
Vicarage Road, Ashton Gate and Adams Park also boast DESSO pitches, which combine natural grass with artificial fibres, prompting speculation that United could once again look to host rugby league matches on a regular basis following a previous flirtation with the Sheffield Eagles.
“When we first came in we made it clear that we were committed to improving the club as a whole,” Clough said. “Improving and building upon our infrastructure will only help to strengthen us going forward.
“This is all part of that process going forward.”