New Wembley turf promises safer ride for League Cup final

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The Independent Football

The Wembley pitch for Sunday's League Cup final is likely to be better than the one Michael Owen blamed for his injury in last year's final. A new pitch system was installed last summer, ahead of this May's Champions League final.

Owen scored for Manchester United in last year's final but went off three minutes before the interval with a hamstring injury. He blamed the pitch and welcomed plans to change it, saying: "Hopefully [the new pitch system] makes it better because the pitch must have had something to do with my injury. I wasn't the only injury to come out of that game."

The new Desso system replaces the traditional "lay and play" pitch, which was a 40mm layer imported from a turf nursery for each match and from which roots were reluctant to grow. With shallow roots the top layer was more likely to divot and stud penetration was harder. The new Desso system is a matrix of artificial fibres stitched across 20 million holes in the Wembley surface. These fibres are based in a bed of sand, which is much more porous than turf, and so minimises surface water. With the network of fibres, the grass is deeper rooted and, according to Wembley's Greg Gillin, is "literally impossible to take a divot out of".

Though it is made up of 3 per cent synthetic fibres, it feels natural. Gillin said: "From the point of view of stability, bounce and playing characteristics, players wouldn't [see] any difference."