It’s funny how football works, isn’t it? One minute, you’re being knocked out of the Papa John’s Trophy by Sunderland, the next, they’re sending you through to the next round.
As I wrote last week, I’m fairly ambivalent about this competition. I’m not a fan of the Under 21s being in the tournament, and I was pretty upset by Manchester United’s behaviour in terms of scheduling our game. I think it has impacted our league campaign, and there are some who believe the same of last season, and maybe even 2017/18. I’m not so sure about the latter, but we did have to play some first-team players in the competition last season which, I guess, could have led to injuries. However, the £10k per win is certainly helpful, and players such as Billy Brooks and Sam Long won’t mind us being in the competition, as they got their debuts.
Well, that’s good news for them, as we’re through to the next round without kicking a ball. Manchester United U21s had to beat Sunderland last night in order to finish above us, sending the group to the final game, but they failed to do so. They fell behind in the 50th minute, levelled shortly after, but Stephen Wearne hit a winner on 66 minutes to send us, and the Mackems, through. It’s bittersweet, especially for those not overly enamoured with the competition, but it is a chance to allow some fringe players to prove themselves. Again.
There is still a game to play, a dead rubber between Sunderland and Bradford. The former are already through and will top the group if they win, whilst the latter are out, having conceded six in two matches. It’s one of those games that only the hardcore supporters will pay for, a bit like our game with Man City U21s next week.
I’m also happy as I announced we were through when we beat Man United U21s, and that might have looked a bit odd in my yearly review book that I publish! Stephen Wearne, whoever he is, has saved my blushes and put us in the hat with such powerhouses as Harrogate, Sheffield Wednesday and Aston Villa U21s. I bet you can’t wait.