Secret Junior Footballer Part 4

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From inside the dressing room – The Secret ‘Junior’ Footballer

Question of the week

“Who do you think will win the Scottish Junior Cup?

With the semi-final draw this week pitching Beith against Kilwinning Rangers, with Hurlford taking on Pollok in the other tie it’s such a difficult one. All 4 sides have done tremendously well to get this far, it’s a huge achievement navigating your way through so many tough rounds so I want to congratulate and commend each team for being in the hat. Although I dare say that no one will really remember the semi-finalists come early June when the final is played and I’m sure within each changing room that’s the message, make the most of this opportunity. The temptation for me is to sit on the fence and not make any predictions, but if pushed for an answer I fancy Pollok to lift the famous trophy.

Artificial Surfaces

Another of the great debates at our grade of football or any level for that matter is the old artificial surface conundrum; you either like them or loathe them. Players, managers and fans alike all have an opinion and I think the general consensus is football should be played on grass. In theory I wholeheartedly agree with this view, but in this country some of the grass pitches I have seen and played on I’m not so sure that it’s sustainable.
This weekend just passed, without naming the club and devaluing the hard work of individuals who worked on the pitch, I played on probably the worst surface of my career. It led me to thinking is grass really all it’s cracked up to be, are artificial surfaces as bad as people like to make out?

I’ve played and trained on artificial surfaces my full footballing life, and I’ve seen them develop from the old astroturf with sand on top to your latest versions of astrograss and if I’m honest I feel no worse in the days after training or playing on astrograss than I do on a standard grass pitch. In fact quite the contrary on occasion, winter grass pitches when they are muddy and heavy my legs often feel far sorer in the days following. I know these symptoms will differ from player to player though and I’ve played with many who feel like old men after playing on artificial surfaces so I know it’s all about personal preference.

Junior football in its current format can only benefit from the introduction of more artificial surfaces in my opinion. I dare say if clubs could afford them or be granted the required funding I’m certain most would be delighted to get their hands on an artificial surface. It would make sense for most clubs given the revenue that can be generated by hiring them out and in turn saves money on the hiring of other training facilities. Also it gives the clubs a platform to create a community hub. In essence you could have your local boys club teams playing in the same venue and surroundings as the adult teams thus creating that community club feel that so many strive for. On top of this a good artificial surface will hold up to most of the elements nature can throw at it, allowing more games to be played in difficult conditions creating less call offs and causing less headaches when trying to get all the required fixtures played.

Crucial to success though is the quality of surface and also correctly maintaining them otherwise just like grass pitches they are susceptible to ruin and become very difficult to play football on. I believe this is where clubs often go wrong, they get the brand new surface laid and for a while it’s spongey, soft great for playing on then after a few years of constant use and improper maintenance it becomes hard and bumpy. I’m not a groundsman nor do I know how to look after an artificial surface so I’m at a loss as to how to fix this problem, but there must be a way? Can we do it better? I think so!

Maybe I’m just part of the new school but I think we need to adapt with the times use the products available to enhance our game. Artificial surfaces are becoming more and more common and I believe we should embrace them. Let’s find the best and most efficient way to use them and everyone is a winner.

Result of the week

Vale of Clyde 2-1 Petershill

What a win for Vale of Clyde, everyone loves an underdog win and that’s what this was. Vale of Clyde two leagues below super premier side Petershill, only two league wins all season yet they managed to cause upset of the day in the Central League cup first round. Beaten semi-finalists in this compettion last year Vale will be hoping to stage another cup run, for Peasy it’ll be all about shaking off this disappointment and retaining their top flight status with some big games coming in weeks ahead.

Game of the weekend

Cumnock Juniors v Irvine Meadow

This week, the game that jumps out to me is this West of Scotland cup tie. Two big clubs with proud, rich histories both of whom are currently in positions they don’t want to be. Cumnock out of the top league albeit doing well and looking like promotion once again is a genuine possibility, and Meadow languishing at the bottom of the table with a host of off field problems if reports are true. This trophy is still a big one in the west and I have a feeling both managers will think this can provide a platform to kick on. Cumnock can make some noise by going far in this tournament, and for Meadow it can provide a welcome distraction from their current plight. I fancy this all Ayrshire tie to be a feisty one.

As always any feedback is welcome and I can be contacted at thesecretjuniorfootballer@gmail.com.
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