Fake plastic pitch, horrible burns and blisters, and the potential for a nasty upset all beckon in Russia, no wonder Steve McClaren is telling his boys to concentrate on Estonia, and think about Russia later. Birmingham City striker Gary Oâ€™Connor has played on the Russian pitch and survived to tell the tale, and after playing on it 15 times he describes the thing as a chaotic mess. Oâ€™Connor told the Daily Mail: â€œIt’s just a dreadful experience. I cannot begin to tell you how tough it’s going to be for them.” Among the various hazards in Russia are uneven rubber slabs put in the plastic to control the bounces, water drenching the pitch to ensure the ball moves fast (and the potential for a steamy sauna if temperatures rise) , and â€“ unless the England players wear some tights â€“ nasty red-raw carpet burns all over their legs. Even with specially made studs Oâ€™Connor thinks that the England team will be hobbling off nursing various blisters after 90 minutes. Oâ€™Connor continued:
â€œSome of the Russian players won’t play on it. A Lokomotiv player called Dmitry Sychev needed a serious knee operation after playing on it. The doctors there have forbidden him from playing on it again. They think it’s dangerous.â€
Gary Sherlock Holmes Oâ€™Connor then put on his tweed deerstalker hats and started sucking on a pipe, then suggesting that the Russians might actually be doing this to get an advantage over England :
“I think Celtic have played there and manager Gordon Strachan almost accused the Russians of cheating. I think there is some spite in their decision to hold it at the Luzhniki. Will it help them? Of course. They will do anything to beat England. It will be seen as a big coup for them.”
Whatever the case, if England do lose in Russia, Steve McClaren has a tailor-made, plastic excuse.