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Burton Albion manager Nigel Clough was among those to complain about the Gillingham pitch prior to its removal

Gillingham chairman Paul Scally insists the club had no choice but to replace their pitch.

The club are spending over £300,000 on a new hybrid surface and further money on improving drainage and irrigation, with the total cost expected to be in the region of£450,000.

That work began on Monday, meaning the games against Blackpool in the league and Tottenham under-21s in the Checkatrade Trophy have had to be rescheduled.

It was a job that had to be done, on safety grounds, with the chairman describing the surface as ‘dangerous’ and revealing that players from their own club and of opposition teams had been injured as a result.

Speaking to kmfm this week, Mr Scally said: “After the Burton game we were concerned with some of the issues on the pitch and infact Nigel Clough (the Burton manager) complained to the referee at half-time that there was a problem with the pitch.

“We did some further investigation in the weeks after and found that there was a serious problem with the pitch, that there was no root growth and the roots hadn’t gone past the top surface so the pitch was very unstable.

“We have had something like seven or eight players injured, both sides, home and away teams, since the Burton game and that’s not good. Our worry is that as the weather deteriorates the pitch will deteriorate rapidly and we will have some real problems.

Work being done on the pitch this week
Work being done on the pitch this week

“We lost Dean Parrett, we lost Regan Charles-Cook and one or two others players who have had slight thigh injuries and muscle problems and the opposing teams have had five injuries between three clubs, all to do with the amount of movement in the pitch and it was only going to get worse.

“The window of opportunity for growing is very small and once we got past October and November we would have a serious problem. We had to do it now.”

The club received special dispensation from the Football League to shuffle their fixtures around and the Blackpool game will now take place on Tuesday, November 6. Their game against Spurs on Tuesday, October 9 will be played at an as yet unconfirmed neutral venue.

The new pitch is made up partly of grass and part plastic, making it more hard-wearing and less likely to cut up. It’s a surface used by the top clubs in this county and around Europe.

The old pitch is removed
The old pitch is removed

Payments have had to be made upfront, and the costs have obviously not been budgeted for, but Mr Scally insists they can cover the outlay.

He said: “Unfortunately, in so far as the budget is concerned it transpired that the only solution - and we looked at all solutions - was to actually relay the pitch.

“It was something we hadn’t budgeted for and is money we would have spent elsewhere but we can’t play football unless we have a proper pitch and a decent pitch. There was no choice and needs must.

“Fortunately we have managed our cash well this year and fortunately we had the money available so we haven’t had to take a loan. It is money we have had to use on the pitch instead of other ways.

“Our options were limited, I wish I would have known about the problems with the pitch at the end of last season because we possibly could have done a slightly cheaper job but the groundwork we have had to do is significant and will give us a far better playing surface and assist the team.

“If you are a footballing side, which we are, the better the pitch, the better the surface, the better result. It will be a footballer’s surface and I hope we can play well on it.”

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