Search

Former QPR star expects a return to artificial pitches

12:11 20 February 2012

Peter Hucker

Peter Hucker

Archant

With a public consultation to consider overturning the ban on artificial pitches, Peter Hucker recalls the days of QPR’s plastic surface

Not many people are better qualified to offer an opinion on the merits of artificial pitches than former QPR goalkeeper Peter Hucker.

Hucker (pictured right) played on Rangers’ controversial Omniturf surface, the first of its kind in England, more times than any other keeper, and has the bruises – and worse – to show for it.

Yet, with the Football League announcing a public consultation to consider overturning the ban on artificial pitches, Hucker believes a return to plastic is certain to happen.

And the 52-year-old is by no means opposed to such a move, pointing out that the quality of synthetic surfaces has vastly improved since 1981, when QPR installed their revolutionary plastic pitch.

Hucker has run a successful coaching school in Essex for some years now and, although the main site at Wanstead has grass pitches, they also use a 3G surface at Dagenham.

“I have played on the latest Astroturf and dived about on it a bit without many problems, even at my age!” Hucker told the Times.

“There’s give on it and I’ve even seen people playing in studs without a problem, which you’d never have been able to do at Loftus Road. It’s a totally different animal now.

“We were the guinea pigs – someone was always going to experiment with it – but I think we’re now in a transitional period where I can see more teams going to artificial pitches.

“I wouldn’t be totally against it and I think it’s inevitable, especially for the smaller clubs that need to get their revenue up. If they can use the pitch 24/7 that can only be good for them.

“Don’t forget artificial pitches are allowed by UEFA. The only problem I can see is that, if the Premier League didn’t allow them, clubs would have a problem if they got promoted and had to rip up the pitch and start again.”

Rangers eventually tore up the Omniturf surface in 1988, the same year that the FA decided to outlaw artificial surfaces, and the similar pitches at Luton, Oldham and Preston were phased out over the next six years.

But, when Hucker broke into Terry Venables’ QPR team midway through the 1981-82 season, the experiment was very much in its infancy and, in the keeper’s opinion, came at a long-term cost.

“It was basically a bit of carpet over two feet of concrete,” Hucker reflected. “Knees, elbows, anything that came into contact with it was burnt or bruised.

“My knees were shot to pieces and I’d say seven or eight of the players who played regularly on that surface ended up having serious back operations.

“I had to go out with tracksuit bottoms and a tub of Vaseline, and Flamazine cream for after the game. I’d have close to third degree burns because the pitch would totally rip the skin off.

“At least opposing players wouldn’t slide into you because they didn’t want to get burnt. And the bounce of the ball was much truer for the goalkeeper, it came straight through.

“But the wear and tear was much worse, with that constant banging on a hard surface and I don’t think anyone could honestly say they enjoyed playing on it.”

Critics of the Omniturf frequently claimed it gave Rangers an unfair edge over visiting teams during a period in which they reached two major cup finals and won the Division Two championship.

Terry Venables’ team also qualified for Europe by finishing fifth in Division One but, at the time, the Rs were not allowed to play their home UEFA Cup ties on plastic and ‘borrowed’ Arsenal’s Highbury stadium instead,

And Hucker, who made 188 appearances for the club before joining Oxford United in 1987, has mixed views on whether the Loftus Road pitch made a significant difference to the team’s fortunes at that time.

“The year we got promotion I think we won almost as many away games as at home, so I don’t think the pitch affected us too much – and we trained on grass all week anyway,” he pointed out.

“With that said, it was a massive advantage that it played so differently from wet to dry. Man United would come down and train on the Friday before the game and it’d be bone dry.

“Then Terry would get about 15,000 gallons of water put on it – come the next day, the pitch was soaked and United couldn’t pick up the zip of the ball. They didn’t know what had hit them!”

n For information about the Peter Hucker Soccer Schools, visit www.peterhucker-soccer.com

0 comments

Latest Sport Stories

Saturday, February 6, 2016
Queens Park Rangers manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink

QPR boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink hopes new signing Nasser El Khayati setting up the winner in the 1-0 victory at home to Ipswich is a sign of things to come for the club.

Friday, February 5, 2016
Hooks ABC coach Steve Newland (centre) with Eddie Barrett (right) and Nathan Brown (left) at Hooks ABC's training base

Eddie Barrett continued his impressive form as he added the London Youth ABA title to his list of honours on Sunday.

Thursday, February 4, 2016
Nasser El Khayati pictured at Loftus Road after completing his move to QPR on deadline day. Pic: Queens Park Rangers FC

QPR manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has every faith Nasser El Khayati will be a big success at Loftus Road.

Thursday, February 4, 2016
The triumphant Brent Under-11 squad which won 7-1 against Barking last time out

The state of youth football in Brent continues to go from strength to strength as two age groups in the borough recorded empathic victories at the weekend.

Thursday, February 4, 2016
Alex Smithies had to remain patient before getting a first-team chance at QPR, but is now relishing life at Loftus Road

QPR goalkeeper Alex Smithies is looking to build on his promising run in the side and wants to see the team turn recent solid displays into much-needed wins.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Hendon chairman Simon Lawrence (above) has backed Gary McCann to get Hendon back on track next season

Hendon chairman Simon Lawrence concedes this has been a season to forget for the club on the field, but he is looking ahead with optimism as the Greens prepare to move into a new home and build their youth development system.

Monday, February 1, 2016
QPR have completed the signing of Nasser El Khayati (right) from Burton Albion

QPR have clinched the signing of Burton Albion forward Nasser El Khayati on a two-and-a-half-year deal.

Saturday, January 30, 2016
George Groves (left) with his new trainer Shane McGuigan. Pic: Lawrence Lustig

George Groves is looking to an unlikely source for motivation as he chases an elusive world title – his arch-nemesis James DeGale.

Most read sport

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Competitions

Sony Smart Ultra HD 55'' LED TV

Enjoy the ultimate entertainment experience in your living room with the Sony Smart Ultra 55’’ LED TV. Be the envy of all your friends with this huge TV- you can change your living room into your own cinema! Get the boys around to watch the football or get the girls around to watch the DVD of 50 Shades.. this is a prize that everyone would enjoy! Stand a chance to upgrade your current entertainment system by wining this fantastic prize.

Surface Pro 4

Technology is ever evolving. We are constantly being shown new technology that is innovative, revolutionary and designed to make life easier for us all. Gone are the days of dial up modems and computers so large you needed half a room to store it. We are in the age of smooth, small and sleek. Companies are all trying their best to create technology that is easy to transport and guaranteed to be user friendly.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Brent & Kilburn Times
e-edition today

Subscribe