October 23rd, 2016

COMMENT: Sky Blues fans give revamped English Football League Trophy a big thumbs down

COMMENT: Sky Blues fans give revamped English Football League Trophy a big thumbs down COMMENT: Sky Blues fans give revamped English Football League Trophy a big thumbs down
Updated: 2:02 pm, Aug 30, 2016

THE LAUNCH of the newly revamped English Football League Trophy has come under widespread criticism as the competition gets underway this week, but why have the changes proved to be so unpopular among Sky Blues supporters?

Like most City fans I had never previously paid much attention to the EFL Trophy, or the Johnstone Paint Trophy as it was formerly known.

In fact the competition never really came onto my radar until the Sky Blues first entered it at the start of the 2012/13 season.

At the time it was another harsh reality check. Like the first time we entered the League Cup at the first round stage, and when we became accustomed to playing in the first round of the FA Cup.

A mid-week home match against Burton was a reminder of how far we had fallen but since then my views changed.

That same season I remember breaking press box decorum when goals from Carl Baker and Leon Clarke saw the Sky Blues come from behind to beat Preston in injury-time.

Just a few weeks later in the area final over 30,000 fans packed into the Ricoh Arena to watch Mark Robins’ side lose 3-0 to Crewe in what must be close to an attendance record for the competition.

It was welcome distraction to our poor league form as the club struggled to adapt to life in the third tier of English football.

In the years that followed Steven Pressley fielded strong teams and Tony Mowbray too by putting out a full strength squad as the Sky Blues lost to Yeovil on penalties in the first round last season.

What the EFL Cup does is rightly gives teams in the lower depths of the Football League a chance to taste cup success. It gives supporters that glimmer of hope that they could actually see their team play on the hallowed turf of Wembley.

It even gives us City fans hope that one day we will be able to add to our trophy cabinet and that remains the one major positive.

But the introduction of 16 Premier League ‘category one academies’ has caused controversy and somewhat dents that dream.

We have already seen Premier League sides being given special treatment, with Chelsea initially declining the offer to join the competition because the fixtures coincided with international dates for their junior players.

Since then the organisers have made the decision to allow Chelsea to play two of their group fixtures two weeks after the allotted date.

Would the same special treatment be given to a League One or League Two Club? I think we all know what the answer would be.

One of the main reasons for the revamp given by EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey was that that it would help benefit the national team by helping develop the best young English players.

That is quite a statement to make and only time will tell if it has been a success, but a large majority of fans are already put off by the new format and if clubs in the third a fourth tier decide to play second string sides in a bid to concentrate on the league, then I do not see how young English players will benefit.

I conducted a recent Twitter poll which over 250 fans took part in and it showed that just 11 per cent were ‘for’ the changes, while a staggering 89 per cent were ‘against’.

It will be interesting to see what sort of attendance will be at the Ricoh on Tuesday evening. I suspect we could be in for a new record low.

But it is not because people do not want to see Mowbray’s side in action, it is because fans are clearly against the recent revamping of a competition that now seems to act in the interest of the country’s elite teams, while those that need the exposure, cash windfalls and a genuine chance of winning a cup competition are left in the shadows.