Rochdale chairman calls Mauricio Pochettino's pitch concerns 'unhelpful'

LONDON -- Rochdale chairman Chris Dunphy hit back at Mauricio Pochettino's "ill-advised and unhelpful" comments about the state of the pitch at Spotland Stadium, telling ESPN FC the Tottenham manager was talking from "complete ignorance."

On Thursday, Pochettino said pictures of Rochdale's pitch suggested it was "not in a condition to play football" and claimed it could pose "a massive risk" to both sets of players in the FA Cup fifth-round on Feb. 18.

Sources told ESPN FC that the Football Association will provide subsidised pitch protection for Rochdale to help ensure that the game can go ahead, and Pochettino said he would speak with his own chairman Daniel Levy in an attempt to "find a solution," but Dunphy was not impressed with the manager's comments.

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 said Pochettino's allegations of a safety hazard 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."

The FA will monitor the playing surface closely during and after the club's League One home match against Fleetwood on Saturday.

The governing body would only move the game to Wembley, Spurs' temporary home for the season, in exceptional circumstances and they do not want to set a precedent for lesser clubs switching venues for financial gain.

Regardless, Dunphy would not welcome moving 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."

If Pochettino persuades Levy the surface poses a serious risk to his players, Spurs could consider subsiding pitch improvements themselves and Dunphy said: "If someone says they want to pay to re-lay the pitch, I'd certainly be receptive to it.

"But the plan at the moment is that we've got a game on Saturday against Fleetwood, we'll see how the pitch plays and we'll take a decision after that."

League One Rochdale's 1-0 fourth-round win over Championship side Millwall was nearly postponed because of the pitch, while recent games against Southend and Wigan were called off after rain left the surface unplayable.

Ground staff slept in the dressing-room at the stadium in order to work intensively on the pitch before the Millwall tie, with the club also hiring a heated dome to protect the surface from the weather.

"A lot of things have got lost in this," Dunphy added. "We had a completely new pitch 12 months ago.

"All anyone is focussed on is the state of the pitch. They've missed the fact we've got to the fifth round of the FA Cup as a League One club. We should be celebrating that but all the focus is on the playing surface.

"A lot of people have worked long and hard on it. The perception is that we just poured sand on it. That pitch was drilled and filled, which is a process of drilling probably 100,000 holes into the ground and filling it with sand every six inches.

"People worked day and night to do that. It firmed the pitch up. The referee was perfectly happy with it against Millwall. Both managers were perfectly happy with it and it played safe."