There will be no hiding place for Sheffield Wednesday’s players next season.
The poor state of their Hillsborough pitch certainly contributed to the Owls’ below-par home results during the 2014/15 campaign.
The playing surface deteriorated over the winter months, causing injuries to stars such as Liam Palmer and Will Keane, and was simply not conducive to playing attractive, passing football.
But there will be no excuses come August 8 when Wednesday entertain Bristol City in their Championship curtain-raiser as the club have invested over £1m in a new state-of-the-art Desso GrassMaster pitch this summer.
The foundations have been laid, the irrigation installation and under-soil heating system completed and the Desso work is well under-way.
Pitch experts have injected green synthetic fibres into the surface, with which the natural grass roots will intertwine to create a level and firm playing field. The seeding process begins on Monday. The first shoots of grass are now visible and Wednesday are ahead of schedule with the project.
John Rutherford, the Owls’ operations manager, told The Star: “We are providing the best possible surface for our players to play on and we are looking forward to seeing some nice football next season.
“We have rebuilt everything from the bottom up, starting with the drainage and followed by the irrigation and under-soil heating systems. We have gone right down to the basics.
“This is a major investment. When the new manager comes in, he will have a fantastic playing surface. This is exciting times for Sheffield Wednesday going forward.
“This is preparation for that next step up and we are hoping that will be in the next couple of seasons. That is the target the owner has set for this club and that’s where we are going to go.”
A number of top-flight clubs, including Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspurs and Aston Villa, have Desso GrassMaster pitches.
Work on the Owls’ playing surface has been carried out by Leicester-based company John Hewitts Sportsturf.
John Hewit, the owner of Hewitt Sportsturf, has overseen the project and is convinced the pitch will be “perfect”.
“It will have a very consistent performance all the way through its life,” he stressed. “It doesn’t really change. It performs really well.”
Hewitt said the biggest challenge was digging up the old pitch.
“The excavation was quite difficult because we had to dig below the River Don river bed which comes right through underneath the centre of the pitch so there was a lot of massive stone,” he said. “We are talking half a metre size stone so we had to dig lower than we would normally do to get rid of it so we could get the drainage system in.”