NEW: Ronnie James’ ‘Parklife’ column

Parents and children at an indoor 3G facility...the future of the game?
Parents and children at an indoor 3G facility...the future of the game?
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You may call me a bluff old traditionalist but football was always meant to be played on grass.

Yes, of course as kids we kicked a ball on cobbled streets, skinning knees and elbows, or in cinder yards at the nearest factory, ripping skin from almost every limb.

And once we graduated to grass at some junior level, we didn’t care if there was more brown mud than green sward.

Indeed we relished the mud. It hadn’t been a “proper” game if you didn’t go home filthy dirty and wet through.

Maybe that’s why I always had a soft spot for Derby County, until the club left the slime of a pitch, where re-painting the penalty spot famously aoccurred during a game.

However, three weeks of postponements due to rain had taken their toll, and in order to get my “fix” I somewhat reluctantly trekked off to a club with a 3G pitch.

On arrival there was already a game taking place, two teams of 14-year-olds who were clearly hardier than their anxious parents were prepared to accept.

The rain hammered down incessantly, the path surrounding the pitch became flooded, and parents urged the referee to abandon the game, presumably due to some irrational fear that their precious offspring would melt if they got wet.

This is the same logic that applies when loading these children into a huge 4x4 for a 300-yard school run.

No matter that the kids were enjoying themselves, some parents were clearly not enamoured. I was baffled that they wanted the game to finish. After all, how else were the adults going to atone for their own sporting failures of the past?

And presumably these kids are happy to receive eight different instructions whenever the ball comes near them.

Maybe the artificial pitch IS the way forward. Maybe the Football Association WILL keep their promise to invest in 3G and 4G pitches.

Maybe non-stop football on a perfect surface is to the liking of many. Give me mud, rain, slide tackles, and a hot bath afterwards every time.

Following the junior game came the “main event”, the open-age match, where coaches mimicked

their Premier League counterparts by holding their arms outstretched every time the long-suffering referee had the temerity to award a decision to the opposition. A hard-fought game ended in a 5-2 result, a fair reflection.

I observed the last 20 minutes from the clubhouse, accompanied by the eight spectators who had been shifted from sheltering in one of the dugouts, partaking of a welcome cuppa.

Two hardy souls remained out in the downpour...they were running the line. Cocooned in full waterproofs they manfully carried on. Both were keen and, more importantly, honest. I have never before seen so much complaining by players at their “own” liner, but in the face of such intimidation their resolve held. I raise my sodden cap to you both.