Trophy Bitter

JANE AUSTEN'S ALLEGRO joins in with the topic of the moment

The Johnstone's Paint Trophy is dead. Long live The Checkerplate Trophy.

Like the majority of fans I was a tad underwhelmed when I heard of the restructuring of the format of this trophy. I was totally underwhelmed when I heard that Premiership clubs' under 21 sides were to be allowed to compete. I was massively disinterested when I heard that the powers that be announced that this would be for the benefit of the national side.

Let's be brutally honest here. Most fans, particularly those outside the Premiership, do not give a tinker's cuss about the England football team. If I was given the choice of England beating Germany on their home soil in the World Cup final or seeing my team being crowned champions of division two, or getting to a play off final, or just plain avoiding relegation, much to the shock of the F.A. I would not be shouting for England.

I cannot believe the arrogance of the English Football League (The EFL sounds like some far right wing organisation with a nasty agenda) foisting this competition on us in its current format with little or no thought or discussion. Talk about being out of touch with the common man. They operate a bit like the EU, and look what happened to them when the people spoke. I was delighted then, when I saw last night's dismal crowd attendances for the Chubbychecker trophy. The people not only spoke, but also did not bother to get off their backsides. As a result empty stadiums all over the country and this was despite many clubs offering cheap tickets(Bolton/Millwall). under 16's in free (Oldham) beer tokens (Mansfield) complimentary programmes and various other freebies, all to no avail.

Blackburn, for instance, travelled to Fleetwood, a mere 25 minute drive away. Could even be classed as a derby match. A grand total of 392 fans were in the ground on the night and if you take away those families who travelled from Blackburn just to watch their sons play against Football League opposition there would be possibly another 50/60 people less in the stadium. I dare say that Fleetwood did not even cover the cost of turning on the floodlights. Port Vale had a crowd of just short of 1,200 for their derby against Derby under 21's the lowest at Vale Park in over thirty years.
"They operate a bit like the EU, and look what happened to them when the people spoke."

I for one certainly do not understand the rules. Leicester's under 21's beat Sheff U at Bramall Lane after a penalty shoot out and gained an extra point. What's all that about? Norwich under 21's beat Peterborough away 6-1 with a 26 year old Frenchman scoring a hat trick. How is that going to get the national side to Russia in 2018? Charlie Adams, who looks and must be nearly a hundred, turned out for Stoke's under 21's so presumably so many over age players must be allowed in the side, so why call them an under twenty one side?

It gets even more farcical. Luton Town had a 15 year old on their bench and had to get permission from his school for him to play. The managers of Exeter and Wycombe named themselves as subs for their home games. The latter, Gary Ainsworth aged 43, yes 43,  came on with 5 minutes to go and had an assist in his team's third goal. How that will help England plans in the future I will never know.

It is on record that the sponsors Checkmate are understandably not very happy with the low crowds and as such are not blaming the organisers but you guessed it ...the fans themselves. That sounds like an own goal of mammoth proportions.

I have never purposely, well perhaps once, gone out of my way to miss a Pools home game, but as a matter of principle I will give the Sunderland under 21's match a miss whilst at the same time being five snodgers better off than if I had attended. On the other hand I am not sure if my principles would stay intact if Pools ended up playing a Premiership under 21 side in the final at Wembley, I might just make the trip down to London.

It has just come to light that 'Big Sam', in much the same way as English Cricket and Rugby are concerned, has allegedly indicated that he would not be averse to calling up foreign players who have not played for their countries at full international level but who have resided in England and are therefore eligible to play for the national side, even without English ancestry.

That being the case there would be no need, no point or no requirement for the existence of the 'Checka chance on me' trophy. If England did go down the route of bringing in foreign players to represent the country I will definitely switch my allegiances to either the Republic of Ireland or Wales, neither of whom would ever dream of doing such a thing.