Afternoon all. I'm sure you're having as wonderful a time as me back home. All this 38 degree heat is overrated if you ask me. My good friend Dan wrote a rather convincing diatribe concerning the EFL trophy today (read here), which entertained me over a bowl of Iberian Cheerios. Not convincing enough, however, to extinguish my enthusiasm for the new look EFL trophy, and here's why.
1) Long Term Thinking
I'm sick of talking about you-know-what and you-know-who (England and Euro 2016), but one aspect of the modern English game has been an upturn in the quality of our younger talent. Rob Holding has received rave reviews for his full debut for Arsenal last night against the MLS All Stars, which included Didier Drogba, Gio Dos Santos, Kaka and David Villa in attacking positions. This tournament will give the promising talents in elite development squads the opportunity to test themselves against established professionals more often without the upheaval of several loan spells. In the mid to long term, English football on a national scale will benefit from the exposure of our development squads to "real" football.
2) We Can Win It
Blackpool, Cheltenham, Everton U21s. Two opponents from the division below us, and Everton, who have produced only a few examples of homegrown talent in recent years since the infamous rise of Wayne Rooney (Galloway, Pennington, Barkley for example). We can beat these three teams, and then see how far we can go. The tournament may appear harder than it was previously, but it is still winnable.
3) It helps the "middling teams"
With the odd exception aside, you can usually pick from 6 or so teams who will win the FA and League Cup (Arsenal, United, Liverpool, Citeh, Chelsea, Tottenham). Then we move to teams solely from League One and Two who could win the JPT (as was). What we are left with is 14 Premier League and 24 Championship with a minuscule (to varying degrees) chance of lifting silverware in a season. Ask fans of Wolves and Southampton how many times they've been to Wembley (play off finals granted). These teams who get caught in the "middle"; who groan rather than celebrate an FA Cup draw away to Manchester United, whose managers deliberate playing a weakened side because they have an important league fixture at the weekend, who would rather lose than draw and face a replay, now face the opportunity of a run in the EFL Trophy, though it carries far less prestige.
4) Gate Receipts
The Premier League is the second-most attended division in Europe behind the Bundesliga (based on average attendances). What distinguishes these two footballing nations is that English football is increasingly becoming a game for the affluent. There are thousands of football fans in the country who either choose not to get a season ticket, or can't get one due to demand. By watching the development squads, it could bring more fans to football matches from a less affluent social background at a price they can afford. With it comes a gate receipt for the "smaller" club facing these teams at home. Everton, who are always well represented in away ends across the county, should bring a healthy amount of fans to their away games, boosting the club coffers of a Cheltenham, Bolton or Blackpool. I can guarantee Sunderland will take a healthy following to local rivals Hartlepool in Group F. It really is a shame that clubs like Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United have declined to take part from this perspective.
5) Scouting missions
Who knows, Phil Parkinson could well find himself a gem when we play Everton? Clubs like ours, who have faced cuts to their scouting set ups and academies are increasingly reliant on loan deals through the season. Even then, managers sometimes rely on the advice of their most trusted advisers, rather than seeing additions with their own eyes first. This competition might just expose managers to younger talents that could benefit their squad. In the case of Southampton's Lloyd Isgrove, then Manchester United's Ashley Fletcher and their temporary employers Barnsley last season, it worked wonders as The Tykes were promoted via the play-offs.
There you have it people. As always, Dan is wrong and I am right, not that you didn't already know that. Disagree? Let me know below, and I'll get back to you once I've polished off another Long Island Ice Tea.