On this day: War of words on Pompey pitch

Harry Redknapp and Arsene Wenger inspect the pitch at Fratton Park
Harry Redknapp and Arsene Wenger inspect the pitch at Fratton Park
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On this day in 2006, Arsenal and Pompey were locked in a pitch battle.

Gunner boss Arsene Wenger slammed the Blues and called for the Premier League to intervene over the state of their pitch.

But Pompey branded the Frenchman unfair and defended the Fratton Park playing surface.

Wenger was fuming that Arsenal had to shoehorn a rearranged trip to Pompey into an already chock-a-block April.

He complained about a wasted weekend on the south coast when a waterlogged pitch claimed the previous Saturday’s Premiership fixture.

Wenger said: ‘I think it’s disappointing that a Premier League match can be called off nowadays.

‘There is certainly an opportunity there for the Premier League to make compulsory demands on clubs about the state of their pitch.

‘Not only for postponed games, but also about the quality of the surface because I believe clubs should have a responsibility towards the quality of the spectacle.

‘We stayed down there the night before and spent seven hours on the coach, basically for nothing.

‘It means a rearranged game for us in a congested schedule.’

Pompey laid a new pitch on top of their deteriorating old one that January.

But the club insisted there was not time in the fortnight between home matches to replace the aging drainage system situated underneath the playing surface nor to remove more soil under the new surface.

That meant more rain failed to drain away on the Saturday because it had another layer to get through.

Pompey planned to install new drainage that summer, though.

Chief executive Peter Storrie said: ‘I think they are very, very unfair comments by Arsene Wenger.

‘I’m not prepared to accept criticism of Portsmouth Football Club like that, because the pitch was playable.

‘We will certainly defend any criticism made of us. It was impossible to do more drainage work when we laid the new pitch earlier this year.

‘New drainage will be put in before the start of next season, which has always been the plan.

‘But that’s an irrelevant debate in terms of the Arsenal game, because the pitch was playable.

‘You cannot criticise the referee. He made a fair and honest professional judgment based on what he thought the weather would be.

'There were predictions for further rain, but the rain stopped before kick-off.

‘But we were happy with the pitch. Everyone at the ground, including all the Sky people, were bemused that it was called off.

‘We did as much as we could do to protect the pitch, which was covered until a few hours before kick-off.’

A Premier League spokesman said they were happy with Pompey’s pitch.

He said: ‘Under Premier League rules, pitches have to be of a certain standard.

'As well as our own assessors, to a large extent we rely on referees to tell us if they’re not.

'But we have not had any complaints from them about Fratton Park’s surface.’