MAURICIO POCHETTINO admits he fears for the safety of his star players and has urged the Football Association to intervene over Rochdale’s pitch ahead of their FA Cup clash.
The Tottenham manager has voiced his concerns over the sand-covered surface for the fifth-round tie at Spotland on February 18.
Millwall manager Neil Harris, who saw his side knocked out this week, branded the pitch as the worst he had ever seen and Pochettino said: “The FA need to assess how the pitch is, then to take a decision about if it’s good for the FA Cup, good for the players and good for the teams to play in this type of pitch.
“In that condition I think it does not help football. I don’t know what happened with this pitch but it is true that the pictures [I have seen] – I think it’s not a pitch in a condition to play football.
“It’s a big risk to play in a pitch like this – if the pictures I have seen give an accurate impression of the state of it. It’s about providing a safe place to play for the players.
“If it is like I saw in the pictures, I think you cannot play football on it. That is my point of view. But not because we are Tottenham. No, I think Rochdale cannot play football there too. And it’s a massive risk for their players too.”
Tottenham could yet offer financial assistance to get the pitch up to scratch. “I’m going to speak with the chairman and with the club, try to find a solution or to see what we can do,” said Pochettino.
Pochettino first has contend with the two biggest matches of the season, with a north London derby with Arsenal tomorrow followed by the Champions League clash with Juventus.
Lucas Moura, Tottenham’s new £25million signing, is in contention to make his debut at Wembley and Pochettino said: “He will be ready to be in contention. He’s doing well, training so hard, starting to feel his legs.”
Rochdale chairman Chris Dunphy hit back at Mauricio Pochettino’s “ill-advised and unhelpful” comments about the state of the pitch at Spotland.
The Dale chairman said: “If a manager wants to speak to his chairman, great. He can speak to Daniel Levy but the FA run the FA Cup and not Tottenham Hotspur.
“His comments are ill-advised and unhelpful. It’s not his decision. We’ve been in touch with the FA throughout. For the [fourth-round replay] win against Millwall, the referee was there from 9 o’clock in the morning and it’s the referee who decides whether to play, not a manager.
“The pitch against Millwall was considered safe and it played rather well. How he can make comments like that when he’s just looked at a picture, I just don’t know.”
Dunphy also claimed Pochettino’s allegations of a safety issues for players were out of line.
“I’m absolutely and totally concerned with player safety and the safety of our players on the pitch,” Dunphy added. “But nobody at the [Millwall] game had any concerns about the safety of the players. [Pochettino] is talking from complete ignorance.”
Dunphy would not welcome switching the game to London, saying: “The FA won’t be receptive to that and I won’t be receptive to it. We’ve got a home game against Tottenham Hotspur and we will be playing it.”