Teams warned in advance as Wembley chief puts boot into pitch critics

Press Releasein Football

Chelsea and Portsmouth players will take the precautionary step of training at Wembley today in advance of tomorrow's FA Cup Final to familiarise themselves with the new pitch, the 11th laid since the rebuilt stadium opened three years ago. Wembley's managing director, Roger Maslin, emphasised yesterday that his platoon of turf consultants and groundsmen have been working "flat out" to ensure the pitch plays truer than the one described by Harry Redknapp as "a disgrace, farcical and impossible" after his Tottenham Hotspur side were beaten by Portsmouth in the semi-final last month.

The regularity with which the pitches are ripped up and relaid is an integral feature of the modern Wembley, which stages rock and pop concerts as well as sports events to pay down bank loans, now standing at £325m according to Maslin, taken on to build the stadium. Despite persistent problems with the freshly laid pitches, which Sir Alex Ferguson also blamed for Michael Owen's hamstring injury in the March Carling Cup final, Maslin said he is "confident" the turf will be fine for tomorrow's match and England's World Cup warm-up against Mexico in 10 days' time - as long as the players wear the right boots.

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