Never before in my footballing life, not as a player, not as a coach, and not as a supporter have I ever wished for a match to be abandoned.*
Ross County and St. Mirren kicked off today at St. Mirren Park in Paisley in what most people would call a monsoon, and what most Scots would call a “wee drizzle.” At halftime County were behind 2-0 and perhaps being flattered a bit by that score. Had they lost, the Buddies would have leap-frogged them in the table and County would have looked very much the team in trouble- not “relegation trouble,” they remain 17 points ahead of last place Hearts, but trouble nonetheless.
At halftime the St. Mirren grounds crew did their best to cajole the pitch back into some sort of playable surface and, given an extra ten minutes to do so by referee Willie Collum, the second half kicked off. The second half lasted only 7 minutes. At the point Collum removed the players from the pitch and gave the grounds crew another half hour to work on it, but to no avail. After the match Collum made the following statement:
When we came out for the second half, the pitch had become worse than what it was before half-time. At half-time, things seemed to be fine, the ball was moving in the first half. In the second half, for the first seven minutes there was obviously a problem. There were players having to check their tackles, watch their running. The ball was sticking.
Ultimately, the pitch was becoming unplayable and dangerous and the referee’s prime responsibility is for the players’ safety. I gave the ground staff at least two attempts to try and work hard on the pitch. They did work very hard, I’m grateful for that. However, it wasn’t enough in the end. We deemed that it wasn’t safe enough to continue the match.
Everybody will be disappointed. However, we make the decision with only players’ interests at heart and that is determining their safety. For us, the pitch was unsafe.
Obviously as a County supporter I’m glad for his decision, but if I can attempt to be objective for a moment, St. Mirren will no doubt feel hard done by and County will feel as though they have dodged a bullet, but it also appears that Willie Collum did everything he could to see this match to completion, but the safety of the players was his ultimate concern and he took the necessary action to ensure it- it’s hard to fault him with that.
Objectivity over, PHEW!
Up next are Celtic, who travel to Dingwall to play County under the lights on November 9.
*Full Disclosure: I may have wished for a match to be called off prior to kick-off if, hypothetically speaking, I had an important player or two who could use and extra week to recover from an injury…