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Cup Fever

Liam looks ahead to tonight’s PJT game

Bolton Wanderers v Liverpool U21’s - Papa John’s Trophy EFL Trophy Photo by Dave Howarth - CameraSport via Getty Images

Just the thought of the Football League Trophy knockout stages evokes wonderful nostalgia of those innocent times growing up. Back when the cup meant something, and the Football League Trophy Final was watched by the whole country as England was decorated in bunting in anticipation for the big game.

For those lucky enough to remember those better times, when the best truly fared against the best, it really stings when the modern fan tries to besmirch the great name of the Football League Trophy.

‘Son, have you got your LDV Vans tin foil trophy with you?’

‘Yes Dad, I wouldn’t leave the house without it!’

Obviously, this is all nonsense.

My Dad didn’t take me to a single Football League Trophy Game. Not because he didn’t care, just that when I was old enough to attend football matches, that shit was rightfully beneath us and I was watching Nathan Blake bag a million goals a season for us.

In recent times, I’ve had mixed feelings about this competition, particularly since the introduction of Premier League B Teams, or Elite Development Squads as their comms teams refer to them as. My issue wasn’t that we were playing these teams, I don’t suffer from an inferiority complex, I’m a grown adult man. My issue was that, in my opinion, the payments do not go anywhere near far enough and represent exactly what the Premier League is about, exacting the maximum return for every penny they relinquish.

For all the talk about the ‘integrity of the Football League’ when we were fielding kids because we simply had no other choice, it seems the real cost of the integrity of the football league is available for a few million…

I could talk about the double-speak of football league members all day but that is not why I took to my computer to bore you with my unconnected and disorganised thoughts today. I wanted to lead a reluctant and uninspiring call-to-arms as to why we should aim to win this fucking thing.

Let’s look at our season so far, not in the emotional firepit of post-game analysis. We are doing OK, I think most would agree. We have a good team and are capable of playing some very good stuff but we have been hamstrung by squad depth and injuries. This happens in football, and it isn’t always anybody’s fault. It doesn’t mean there’s any structural problems and it doesn’t require knee-jerk, reactionary change. We built a squad very quickly to achieve a goal and we achieved it quicker than we expected, and we have not yet been able to assemble a squad capable of achieving our next goal. It doesn’t mean we won’t, it may just mean, not yet.

So, what could this season look like realistically?

Obviously, we could theoretically do what we did last season, but I’m going to put that in the unlikely box. We want to keep in touch of the play-off places and hopefully do something from there, there is a danger of the season drifting away from us. Tuesday night represents an opportunity to make this season memorable for something we have not had in a long time, cup success.

The draw has been kind to us, we have been handed a home fixture against a struggling Fleetwood side, with only three league wins on the board all season and frankly bigger things to worry about than this competition. Our exit from the other cup competitions and our depleted squad puts us in unique position, we can’t really over-rotate our squad, we don’t have the capability and all we can really do until our squad situation improves is look to utilise the momentum a settled side can bring.

I hope all this makes sense, in short, I want to go to Wembley with the boys.