Artificial turfs are heavily discussed these days. In Scotland, Kilmarnock are playing their home games at Rugby Park on this type of material, but this is not anything new in British football, with a history going back almost 40 years.
Queens Park Rangers, Luton Town, Preston North End and Oldham Athletic were all famous for their “plastic fantastic”. During the 70’s and early 80’s the NASL had more or less all games played on artificial turfs.
Back then you also had a type of special shoes that were especially made for playing on these turfs, usually shoes without knobs. These days the grass are much better and you have mostly shoes with knobs who are comfortable on these types of material.
In Scandinavia and especially Norway most clubs in the league system only have artifical turfs, due to the heavy weather change and a difficult climate, this makes it better to play instead of playing on muddy and frosty pitches, or getting a great amount of games postponed.
Leicester City also have a pitch like this on their training ground and will also be planning with this type of turf at their new planned training facilities. So the use of “plastic fantastic” is well in place and will probably never be removed as a training turf.
Russia, Spain and the Scandinavian countries are used to this type of grass, and it makes sense to have such fields. Spain, due to dry weather and not using a waste amount of water to keep the grass green, environmental reasons are obvious.
For the countries in the north they are often not able to build grounds and training fields with soil heat. Then artificial material makes great sense. The problem today is that to keep the surface as soft as possible you need to use cuttings of rubber from old car tires, and that in it self is pollution.
Borussia Dortmund visited Norwegian team Odd Skien for an European game a few years back, being 3-0 down after 20 minutes or so, on artificial grass, but after adapting they got back and won 4-3 in the end.
So how did Leicester City do in their games, playing Oldham Athletic, Luton Town and Queens Park Rangers, during the 80’s and early 90’s.
The headlines were often, psychological edge, a nightmare to play on, increasing risk of injuries and a potential cash cow for lower league clubs.
QPR were the first to install in 1981, then Luton Town, Preston North End and Oldham Athletic followed. Oldham had a fantastic rise in performances getting into the top flight by playing on the surface.
Luton had their “plastic” at Kenilworth Road from 1985 to 1989. Oldham Athletic had their artficial turf from 1986 to 1991. A former fox, Ian Marshall, scored a goal in the last game on “plastic”, winning 3-2 and getting The Latics promoted to the top flight.
Terry Venables was in charge at Queens Park Rangers during a number of the “Lego” years, and he moved to Barcelona after a great run of results with the Q’s, mostly being blamed for having a great advantage to play on their special turf. QPR had “plastic” until 1988.
Preston North End had Deepdale covered with “plastic” from 1986 to 1994, and the last English team to ever have a home stadium and games played on this type of surface. The EFL banned artificial turfs in 1995.
Leicester City’s record on “plastic” will go along with the headlines, and really is a team following the flow, struggling heavy when going out on “plastic”. Leicester played 14 official league and cup games on that type of turf, 1 single win, 3 draws and 10 games lost. The magic win, 1-0, against Queens Park Rangers, a fixture back in 1986. Alan Smith scored the magic goal.
Only four Leicester City players scored goals on “plastic”, Gary Lineker 4, Alan Smith 3, those two must be described as the “plastic fantastic”, Jimmy Quinn and Gary McAllister where the two others.
- Luton Town
- Plastic Seasons, 1985-1989, Top Flight Seasons, 1982-1992
- Queens Park Rangers
- Plastic Seasons, 1981-1988, Top Flight Seasons, 1983-1988
- Oldham Athletic
- Plastic Seasons, 1986-1991, Top Flight Seasons, 0
- Preston North End
- Plastic Seasons, 1986-1994, Top Flight Seasons, 0
- Leicester City “Plastic” Records
- League, 28.08.90 v. Oldham Athletic, 0-2 Loss
- League, 30.09.89 v. Oldham Athletic, 0-1 Loss
- League, 03.12.88 v. Oldham Athletic, 1-1 (Quinn), Draw
- League, 12.12.87 v. Oldham Athletic, 0-2, Loss
- League, 24.01.87 v. Luton Town, 0-1, Loss
- League, 27.09.86 v. Queens Park Rangers, 1-0 (Smith), Win
- FA Cup, 10.01.87 v. Queens Park Rangers, 2-5 (Smith, McAllister (pen), Loss
- League, 01.01.86 v. Luton Town, 1-3 (Bright), Loss
- League, 16.11.85 v. Queens Park Rangers, 0-2 Loss
- EFL Cup, 30.10.84 v. Luton Town, 1-3 (Lineker) Loss
- League, 21.04.84 v. Queens Park Rangers, 0-2 Loss
- League, 24.03.84 v. Luton Town, 0-0, Draw
- League, 09.04.83 v. Queens Park Rangers, 2-2, (Lineker 2) Draw
- League, 24.10.81 v. Queens Park Rangers, 0-2 Loss