OUTSPOKEN former footballer Robbie Savage sparked a debate when he bemoaned the lack of all-weather pitches across the country.

Speaking in his current role as a pundit for BBC Radio Five Live, the ex-Leicester midfielder was unhappy that snow and ice put paid to much of last weekend’s sporting programme at grassroots level.

While undersoil heating ensured Premier League football and Six Nations rugby went ahead as scheduled, the district’s Saturday and Sunday football teams, junior sides, and Tynedale Rugby Club, all had matches postponed.

“I’m involved with a local football team myself,” said the 44-year-old Savage. “I am absolutely gutted that we didn’t have a game.

“You go on a good run and build up some momentum, and at that stage, the last thing you want is a postponement.

“I really would like to see more investment in 4G (fourth generation) pitches, they keep people playing in all weathers, and help to avoid a frustrating pile-up of fixtures.”

Tynedale has received various streams of sports funding over the years, and football in the district has been played on all-weather pitches for the best part of two decades.

The multi-purpose facility at Prudhoe High School was opened by goalkeeper Shay Given, when he was Newcastle United’s established number one, back in 2003.

Since then it has been used in various forms, from junior training and development, to competitive matches at Northern Alliance level.

A smaller all-weather surface, for five and six-a-side football, opened at Haydon Bridge United shortly after the turn of the Millennium. Damaged by flooding in 2005, the facility was refurbished and remains popular with junior and senior players today.

Plans for a £37m investment in new buildings for Hexham Middle School, and the town’s Queen Elizabeth High School, include provision for artificial surfaces for football and hockey.

But while the introduction of more full-size artificial pitches would undoubtedly prevent matches being called-off, not everyone is in favour of the technological development.

And while they represent a useful alternative to waterlogged grass pitches, they still become unplayable when frozen in the absence of under-turf heating.

They were dubbed ‘plastic pitches’ in the 1980s, a decade which saw Queen’s Park Rangers use ‘Omniturf’, an early generation of artificial turf to their Loftus Road ground. Preston North End used an artificial pitch at Deepdale between 1986 and 1994.

But the technology has developed enormously since then. Russia’s national stadium, the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, introduced a hybrid surface made up of natural grass, reinforced with plastic, in 2016. National League side Sutton United play on a modern 3G pitch.