Alloa Athletic’s Recreation Park is in an undoubtedly beautiful setting just below the Ochil Hills but it was the start of one thing that put me off a lot of Scottish grounds.
It had charm and character but also an artificial pitch which for me is a real negative. On a journey to recapture some of the romance and memories of the game I love, a grass surface is something of a necessity.
I totally understand why clubs in this part of the world use them; the ground is unused for the overwhelming majority of its existence so making money simply from being there is a vital revenue stream. And the weather can make the surfaces in Scotland almost impossible to maintain. So why not put a plastic pitch down and kill two birds with one stone?
I’ll tell you why. Because roughly once every fifteen years a stand up comedian from Newcastle will drive past your ground and stop to take some photos. He’ll get excited as he sees the familiar exterior of another football stadium then feel even happier when he spots an entrance open for visitors to peek inside.
His heart will then sink as he spots five-a-side goals lined up along the touchline and instead of the smell of freshly cut grass there’s just, well, nothing. I’m well aware it’s an incredibly selfish reason to not like a stadium but I’m allowed to and there’s no doubting the artificial pitches just make the stadiums seem slightly less authentic.
It’s a shame as Alloa’s home is otherwise an absolute cracker. Possibly football’s only pebbledash exterior has a certain charm to it and the whole place is definitely worth a visit.
Whether I hit lucky with being able to take a peek inside I’m not too sure but there’s just about enough to see from outside even if you can’t walk around all of the ground. Every side is completely different, from an archaic but beautiful main stand to the temporary one opposite.
There’s a covered terrace behind one goal and the other end is just open. Probably a lovely spot on a sunny day but I’ll bet it’s rarely used. Best get an artificial playing surface all things considered.
So it’s a tough one to really score. There’s so much about it that it’s hard to criticize but the pitch is a big sticking point for me. It’s worth a visit but be prepared to be left a little cold.