John Caulfield has been no fan of artificial pitches in the past but the Cork City manager seems to have been converted to the idea by the quality of BK Hacken’s 4G surface at the Bravida Stadium in Gothenburg on Thursday evening.
City claimed an excellent 1-1 draw against their more fancied Swedish opponents courtesy of Sean Maguire’s 64th-minute penalty and they played some stylish and effective football on a ground on which they had trained for two days previously.
Caulfield was strong in his criticisms of ‘plastic pitches’ ahead of his side’s date on the much-maligned surface at Oriel Park in Dundalk last March and he also voiced his sadness at the news that Derry City were looking to install artificial turf at the Brandywell.
He spoke at the time of the trend towards artificial turf in the UK in the 1980s and how pitches such as Luton Town’s at Kenilworth Road ultimately returned to a natural state and how, in all his travels around Europe and the US, he had never seen anything that compared to grass.
Those views softened considerably two evenings ago.
“Well, it’s a proper all-weather isn’t it? I’ve been to a lot of different grounds in Europe and that is top quality. It is as close to grass as you can get. You can slide tackle without being burned. If that’s the way to go then fine because those pitches are top notch.”
Caulfield was torn between pride and disappointment after a game which saw his side play so well for so long before being ultimately denied a famous win by a Hacken equaliser seven minutes from time.
And the City boss was keen to point to the fact that the Swedes remain a dangerous opponent, one with infinitely greater ammo than their hosts in Turner’s Cross for next Thursday’s Europa League second qualifying round second leg.
“Hacken are a 25 million club, we are 1.5 million. They have international players from all over Europe and the world. Swedish football is at a different level. They have internationals playing here. We don’t have that.”
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