The much-maligned Checkatrade Trophy will contain four new under 23 sides next season, as a couple of the big guns have been persuaded to join up.
There will actually be several new faces in the competition, those coming down from the Championship as well as ourselves and Forest Green However, it is the involvement of the Premier League sides that will grab whatever headlines might be written.
Championship side Fulham will field a team this season, as will Premier League giants Manchester City, Newcastle and Spurs. There is still no uptake of involvement from Arsenal or Manchester United, but they may feel the same as many fans who believe the tournament is a ‘dead rubber’.
The involvement of under 23 sides was meant to stimulate the growth of the competition as well as develop younger players, and many would argue it has done neither. Attendances were down massively on the previous season, and they didn’t start particularly high to begin with.
England’s under 20 side won the recent World Cup, and yet only a couple of the players had seen any action in the trophy, one of which was on loan at a lower league club when he played. Far from being welcomed with open arms, the involvement of academy sides has been detrimental to what was already a weak competition.
That said a cup win is a cup win, and the fans boycott last season fell down when teams made it to the Wembley final. I’m afraid you can have all the morals in the world, but if your team gets through to a domestic final then it is an achievement, whether its FA Cup, FA Trophy or a Mickey Mouse competition featuring under 23 sides.
The under 23 teams all always play away from home and aside from Leicester we don’t have any in our region. As the group stages are regionalised it is unlikely we’ll host one of the academy sides until we progress beyond the group stages, which we will. Having seen the Lincoln Lizards in action last season I have no doubt Danny will want to win this trophy, and that won’t be the attitude of many other sides.
I also support the rule change that allows more freedom of team selection for the so-called lower teams who enter. We will be able to blood young players and give fringe players a run out, and this season we won’t get fined for it. Last season Luton Town received a £16k fine for breaking the rules on players, and yet they still voted in favour of the format recently.
Is it a lack of morals that I’m excited about entering a competition we stand a chance of winning, whether that involves under 23 sides or not? Should the £100k prize money be ignored, even if it is the drips from the Premier League’s overfilling bank balance? I don’t think so, I’m just a Lincoln City fan and when they play I want them to win. This is a devalued and contentious competition, but it doesn’t make me want to see us lift the trophy any less.
Given a choice I’d rather we didn’t play in a match that involved an academy side, I’d rather the top National League sides entered so we could strengthen the call for three up, three down. I still believe that is needed even though we’re now up and have no intention of going back down. I also passionately disagree with any notion of a League Three involving B teams, it would shatter the strength and uniqueness of our lower divisions. That said, I want to see City at Wembley any way I possibly can, and if that means the Checkatrade Trophy, then so be it.
Will you be boycotting the trophy, or will you be there regardless? Email me your thoughts firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll put an article together on the general Imps consensus.