It kinda goes without saying I don’t want B teams in the EFL, and that seems to have been echoed by a key football figure today.
Pep Guardiola got the topic up and running, again, when he said how he felt his Under 21s should be competing in the EFL after their recent game against Wycombe. They were the comments of a man who played three times for Barcelona C, 53 times for their B team, and later managed the second string. It is a norm within football in Spain, but here it is not, and should never be.
Our own pyramid, with promotion from non-league, only really became as solid as we see it now in 1987 (which I think we all remember), with promotion and relegation between the EFL and non-league. Let’s not be too dewy-eyed about our structure; it hasn’t always been the fair, open ship we see now and our first games against the likes of Scunthorpe and Peterborough United were in fact courtesy of our reserves. In real terms, we have operated a B team system before, but we’ve progressed and even when Lincoln Reserves did play Scunthorpe, it wasn’t because we stockpiled the best talent and hid them away from the world.
I shouldn’t be too critical of Pep, I guess, because we’ve borrowed players from them twice. He hasn’t come here looking to destroy our heritage with a madcap, untested idea; he’s merely reflecting what he experienced as a player and manager in Spain. Also, his comments were taken out of proportion somewhat. He spoke of their performance being good and went on to say “They have this rhythm because they can train with us. It would be better if they could play Wycombe every weekend. That would be the best development for these players. They should play every day against teams like Championship or League One. That would be the best for English football, not playing against 17-19-year-olds and winning 5-0 every single day.” Crucially, and not widely reported, he finished by saying, “That’s not good for them, but I am not here to change anything in this country.”
Even if he was, he won’t get the chance, according to Rick Parry. Here’s a man who I have criticised on here before, someone I don’t see as particularly good for football, but he’s made his stance very clear on B teams in the EFL.
“Frankly, I don’t even see it being on the table,” he is reported as saying by the BBC. That’s refreshing, because previous FA Chairmen, such as Greg Dyke, have floated the idea before. Not on Parry’s watch though, apparently. “I just don’t see it and, irrespective of my view, it is absolutely not something that our clubs have any enthusiasm for. It’s been tried. Greg Dyke tried it, Greg Clarke introduced it at the very start of [Project] Big Picture and I said, ‘that’s non-negotiable, it’s not happening’. I’ve spoken quite a lot about fresh ideas, new thinking, not having preconceived ideas, but I’ve got a preconceived idea about B teams and that’s not within the boundaries.”
So, there you have it. Whilst there is a thirst for B Teams amongst some quarters, it really isn’t something that could ever feasibly happen. The EFL Chairman has effectively taken it off the table, and whilst I still don’t like him (remember Project Big Picture), it is a step forward for those of us firmly against the idea.
Parry also signalled the end of the EFL Cup in my opinion, by talking about how it might be affected by the 2024 Champions League revamp. “Could it be that the clubs not in Europe play in it, could it just be an EFL competition? All things are possible,” said Parry. If you take the chance to play Liverpool, Everton and the like out of the EFL Cup, it just becomes the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy of 2011, a one-off game you do your very best to lose. I recall us playing Leeds and Leicester in that awful competition, going out without so much as a fart and not bothering at all. I’ve lost a lot of passion for the Papa John’s Trophy, but at least you know what that is; a chance to play kids, returning players and fringe faces. The EFL Cup was, once, almost as prestigious as the FA Cup, with the final being a television event in our household. Now, it is usually won by Man City’s B team, masquerading as Man City. At least in the Papa John’s, they call a spade a spade and stick the U21 monicker on the end.