It seems that the first impact Reading's new Chinese owners will have on the club is installing a new pitch at the Madejski Stadium, the first time this has happened since 2007.
Throughout the 2016/17 season it was often noted how bad the pitch was looking, with Jaap Stam commenting after the Cardiff game in January:
“As everybody knows, the pitch is not as good as we want it to be, so it’s difficult to play our football because the players’ focus is always on their first touch instead of looking where to pass the ball,” he argued. “That gives the opposition a split second to get closer to you.
“I’ve spoken to the club about it and we need a new pitch. They haven’t renewed it for a couple of years."
He appears to have got his wish, with Nathan George of MJ Abbott Ltd confirming on Twitter yesterday that work had begun on reconstructing the pitch.
George explained how the old Desso surface was being removed and then replaced by new SISGRASS. Now you, like I, probably have no idea what the difference between these two things are, but Engineering & Technology.org helpfully explains:
The SIS and Desso systems are similar, except that Desso uses polypropylene fibre, which is very strong, stiff and hard, whereas SIS uses a polyethylene fibre which it says is softer and therefore more comfortable for the players.
This sounds as though this change can only be a good thing, with Harry Redknapp, Roy Hodgson, Martin Keown and Thierry Henry all high-profile critics of the harder Desso surfaces.
SISGRASS is also used St George's Park (the FA's national football centre), whilst it is currently being installed at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium which will host the 2018 World Cup Final. A giant laser-guided sewing machine on tracks is used to weave the polyethylene yarn into the ground, with a cross section shown below.
It is not known how much this transformation is costing, but it is believed that the price has been the drawback in previous summers, suggesting that the new owners are willing to splash their cash. On the pitch, hopefully the softer playing surface will enable Stam's possession style of play to be showcased to the maximum next season.