According to the minutes from an AFC Wimbledon Supporter’s Trust meeting, the majority of clubs in the Football League have backed the idea of Premier League ‘B’ teams entering the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
In fact, not just the majority – 47 out of 48 teams are in favour of the plans. A landslide.
I wonder how fans would react to this? I am not sure it would be favourably.
I think it is fair to say that the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy does need “sexing” up a little. Early round matches are often played out in front of seriously low attendances and managers often use them as a chance to rotate their squad and bed in a few youngsters.
But I really do not think that the answer to the tournament’s problems is to allow a glorified top flight reserve side enter.
Why should, for example, a Liverpool ‘B’ side be gifted the opportunity to go to Wembley, above a Tranmere, or a Dagenham?
That is what the trophy is all about, after all. Presenting the chance for a smaller club to get to the national stadium, something that they are highly unlikely to achieve in the FA Cup, League Cup, or statistically speaking at least, in their respective division (via the play-offs).
And that is what makes it a special tournament and one that should be more respected.
Look at some of the team’s who have got there in recent years – Crewe, Chesterfield, Southend, Carlisle. They might not always have been on on the winning side, but I bet their fans still had fantastic days out.
In fact, go back to the Johnny King era at Prenton Park and fans and players alike eulogise about the Leyland DAF trophy finals in 1990 and 1991 (okay, maybe one more so than the other!).
If you start dropping a Manchester United ‘B’ or a Chelsea ‘B’ into this competition, I think it really lessons how serious the tournament is.
After all, I cannot image these clubs would see it as that important. They will just want their players to test themselves against Football League opposition, as opposed to sending them out on loan.
So why did all these clubs vote in favour of the idea?
Well I have one theory. As I have already mentioned, attendances in the JPT are low. If Arsenal suddenly rocked up at Victoria Road, or Manchester City at Prenton Park, the number of people through the turnstiles would soar.
Financially, then, it probably makes safe.
But for me, money is the only reason I can see why allowing reserve sides enter the JPT – or, indeed, the Football League in general, is a beneficial idea to clubs like Tranmere.
Whenever people mention something negative about ‘B’ teams, a counter argument can be “look at Spain”, or “look at Germany, it works there.”
The problem is though, this is not Spain or Germany. This is England. In England, we have four professional divisions. Nowhere else on the continent can claim that.
For that reason alone, we should not be looking to mirror other countries. We should be trend setters.
This is professional football. It is a not a nursery for the Premier League. Stop messing with the product for the benefit of the teams higher up, when it only detracts from what a great product this country already has.