England's national stadium at Wembley came in two years late and £300m over budget. But, as with most big building projects, the complaints were soon forgotten, and Wembley came back into its own. Even the mourning for the twin towers ceased, as the elegant arch won over fans and aesthetes alike. Alas, the quality of the centrepiece – the actual pitch – seems to have been overlooked. It has come in for regular scolding from unhappy players and their managers.
Lawns are something the English are supposed to be good at - world masters, even. But turf, it seems, is another matter. Wembley is now being given its 11th new pitch in two years. And the ripping up and relaying is set to go on: the pitch may have to be replaced as many as seven times a year between now and 2023. Is the problem overuse, penny-pinching or incompetence? Or could it be that there is insufficient light to nurture the green shoots? The wrong sort of turf, even? Has Wembley become a microcosm of the national condition?
Not so long ago there was consternation in the England camp when they had to play their Euro 2008 qualifier against Moscow on a synthetic pitch. Perhaps AstroTurf isn't such a bad idea after all.