Due to the hideous plight of last season and relegation to League One, Bolton Wanderers will compete in the EFL Trophy, the Johnstone Paint Trophy to you and me, this season. It's a trophy that hasn't got the greatest prestige, but it is a trophy never the less and an opportunity for the Whites to travel to Wembley once more. However depressing it may be to see our name in the draw, we should not be condescending towards it and think our selves as above it, because we are clearly not.
That's what I would have said and believed had we fallen to League One and had been readying ourselves for a season in the third tier this time one year ago. Now, however, I really could not give a rats arse about the completion in the absolute slightest. I imagine you know why.
The draw for the cup was held on Wednesday and Wanderers were drawn with local rivals Blackpool, "Northern" side Cheltenham and, oh so gloriously, Everton's U23s. Aside from being drawn against a team in a regionalised tournament that are from fucking Gloucestershire, the EFL Trophy has pissed me, and an uncountable number of like minded fans, off big time with the addition of "top team" academies being added to the competition.
The move is a number of things which we shall delve into momentarily, so prepare for angst, but most of all it's another crystal clear sign that the FA either don't know or don't care, almost definitely the latter, about the teams that prop up their beloved money making juggernaut that is the Premier League.
So, yeah, this year u23 teams of a certain number of Premier League and Championship clubs will compete in a trophy that was designed for the teams in League One and Two. A trophy that was created with the soul idea of giving clubs of lesser quality and status a consistent chance to compete in a knock-out competition and who knows? Maybe one day make it to the famous Wembley stadium and get a fleeting taste of glory.
Being a League One and Two club is hard going, it's like the blood soaked medieval battlefields; there is very little glory or grandeur, just a lot of sweat, effort and mud. Yeah, it might be a fun ride for relegated Championship teams who dip their toe in for a season and shoot back up, to them it's a refreshing dip in the pool, a nice change from grand stadiums to shacks with tin roofs.
It's also no doubt amazing for a teams who manage to gain promotion from the conference. But to the vast majority of those teams who linger in League One and Two like it's purgatory, it's pure shite. Sure, the football in the moment may well be enjoyable - a last minute winner is great no matter where you play, be it the park or the Azteca - but in reality, it's shite.
It's just season after season after season of mediocre football with little to shout about. That's where the EFL Trophy comes in, and has done for many years now. It may not be the coveted of championships in the world of sport, but for fans of teams who spend years doing nothing but existing, it's a chance for them to see their sides get to Wembley and win a cup. Which is the dream of every football fan. It's easy to look down at it as tin pot, but it is, or was, important.
Which is why it is an absolute travesty that the FA have decided to let these "bigger" sides can put their youth teams into the tournament. It's an insult. Not only is it another example of the bigger fish stealing all the little fish's food, it's just so insulting to force professional teams to play "bigger" team's youth sides for their improvement. It completely illegitimates the entire completion, too.
Who in their right mind is going to watch their side face off against an academy? It's a joke. And if an academy side actually wins the fucking thing, then that'll be an absolute farce and render the completion completely utter pointless. Just imagine a final held at our home of football, the grand and special Wembley stadium, being competed by Wolves U23s vs Southampton U23s. I look forward to the FA trying to charge £60 for that one.
It seems to me that this is a precursor, the beginning, the testing the waters, of the FA trying to get youth teams into the league structure. If that day ever comes to pass it truly would be the death of OUR beloved game. Our league system is a thing of beauty, the absolute best in the world without question. Being able to populate four divisions with sides of real stature is a thing no where else in the world can do, and we should be proud of it. I'll be heartbroken if it ever comes to an end.
Of course, the FA completely ignored or never even noticed supporters' concerns and hatred towards academy teams being in the completion, they've just masked it as "it'll help develop our youth" and "it'll benefit the country." What a load of fucking bollocks. If these "bigger" sides want their youth to gain experience they should either fucking play them, loan them out or, preferably, stop hoarding every kid that shows a single glimpse of talent instantly, out of fear of missing out on the next big thing, which they so rarely become due to being left to rot. Let these young, promising talents actually play and develop at the club they've come through at.
I won't attending a game in this completion, at least not in the group stage. I'd undoubtedly go if Bolton made it to Wembley, no use thinking other wise, so the following may well be hypocritical: we should all boycott this tournament and we should all, without question, boycott any game featuring an U23 side. It's more than like the only way we supporters will ever be heard, as footballer's shouts echo around empty stadiums all over the country.
As a team I really hope Bolton play all the kids and don't treat any game with any sort of seriousness at all. If it's okay for "big" teams to use the tournament as a place for their kids to get experience, why can't we or any other side? Oh wait, nope, there's a requirement that a certain number of first teamers have to play in the game, regardless of an already vigorous schedule or any injury problems a team may be having. What a complete and utter fucking joke.
It's time we, as fans, took a stand against being treated like shite.
Fuck the FA, fuck the Football League and fuck the EFL Trophy.