There are a handful of things that are certain in this life; death, taxes, Mansfield bottling promotion and supporters falling out about the EFL Trophy.
Whatever the rebrand turns it into, however it is improved, pimped up or repackaged, it will always be a competition which splits fans. Some see that we’ve drawn Manchester United and get excited, others see we’ve drawn Man Utd kids and feel the insult once again. There is a third group who won’t even look at the draw because they feel in doing so they’ll break a boycott and welcome Under 21 teams into our league structure.
I’m not getting into all of that again, we all know where we stand. Well, actually we don’t; the year we won it I saw every game bar one, last year I went to the Wolves Under 21 game for the shirt display and left without actually watching. This year? Heaven knows.
What I will say is this; the club will be delighted with today’s draw by virtue of the fact we’re playing Manchester United. Forget Chelsea, Everton, Wolves and anyone else; Man Utd are still the biggest draw in this country. Sorry Man City fans, Liverpool supporters or whoever else, but there is a mystique around the Red Devils that makes this interesting.
Not for some, granted, but many won’t see the ‘Under 21′ bit in the draw. Just like the Wolves’ fans of Lincoln who relished seeing their side play us last season, a whole group of people in Lincoln will be attracted to this encounter. One tweet I read said it was a ‘plastic’s dream’ or something similar. That’s harsh, new and returning fans are not necessarily two-team supporters and some of the oldest Imps’ fans I know have a second team.
Still, the game will drag people otherwise not interested in Lincoln to Sincil Bank. What better time to do so than for a game which half of the loyal fanbase have no interest in? Wolves were a hard sell, Everton too, but Man Utd? Just by virtue of who they are there will be a decent crowd.
I watched six or seven people queuing to get a United shirt signed by Paul Scholes when we played Oldham, there is a passion for the club wherever you go in the country. I texted my mate Pete, a Man Utd season ticket holder, to tell him about the draw. His answer; ‘should guarantee a bumper crowd’. He’s right too.
What would we rather? Low crowds and low income based on a principle, or money flowing into the club that wouldn’t usually have come our way? this isn’t ‘blood money’, it’s not going to lead to a League 3 packed with kids, it’s local money from fans wanting to come and watch Man Utd, with or without Solskjaer, Rashford and whoever.
I might even go to the game myself, just to see a Man Utd representative side play the Imps. It hasn’t happened since 1934 and whether it’s the kids or not, it might be worth watching. It’s certainly better than drawing Leicester, Everton or Newcastle purely from a financial point of view and ultimately that’s got to be a good thing for the club, hasn’t it?
Until an Under 21 side wins it, of course, then the whole thing collapses completely.
A: Grimsby Town, Scunthorpe United, Sunderland, Leicester City U21
B: Accrington Stanley, Oldham Athletic, Fleetwood Town, Liverpool U21
C: Bury, Salford City, Tranmere Rovers, Aston Villa U21
D: Port Vale, Shrewsbury Town, Macclesfield Town, Newcastle United U21
E: Crewe Alexandra, Burton Albion, Mansfield Town, Everton U21
F: Bolton Wanderers, Bradford City, Rochdale, Manchester City U21
G: Blackpool, Carlisle United, Morecambe, Wolverhampton Wanderers U21
H: Doncaster Rovers, Rotherham United, Lincoln City, Manchester United U21
A: Gillingham, Colchester United, Ipswich Town, Tottenham Hotspur U21
B: Crawley Town, Portsmouth, Oxford United, Norwich City U21
C: Leyton Orient, AFC Wimbledon, Southend United, Brighton & Hove Albion U21
D: Coventry City, Forest Green Rovers, Walsall, Southampton U21
E: Exeter City, Cheltenham Town, Newport County, West Ham United U21
F: Swindon Town, Bristol Rovers, Plymouth Argyle, Chelsea U21
G: Stevenage, MK Dons, Wycombe Wanderers, Fulham U21
H: Peterborough United, Cambridge United, Northampton Town, Arsenal U21