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Comment, The Back Pages

Hands Off Our Trophy


Now anyone who doesn’t know me may not know that for more than 20 years now I’ve been a long-suffering Crewe Alexandra fan.

During my days as a student in Bangor I travelled back to Crewe to catch games only to head back the next day – there’s been a lot of ups and a lot of downs.

But throughout those years I’ve seen a lot of players grow at the club, something I, and many other lower league fans seem to enjoy – watching an academy graduate warming up for England is to us what a cup final is to your top flight fan.

We don’t often win trophies and I can’t imagine in my lifetime a rich business tycoon would ever consider investing in a little railway town – but in 2013 against the odds we took a trip to Wembley.

Trips to London Town

In fact it was our second trip in as many years having been promoted the year before via the League Two play-offs.

But this was different – this was the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy – an unknown to many fans across Europe but a trophy designed to give lower league fans a chance of glory – to know what it’s like to win.

Although the trophy gave fans a chance to experience the thrill of a trip to the national stadium it was generally accepted that attendance – particularly in the earlier stages – were not good.

So the EFL (the newly rebranded football league) decided that the trophy needed a revamp and, at the same time, something needed to be done about the English national team.

As a result it unveiled the Checkatrade Trophy, an amalgamation of lower league teams and U23 sides from the top academies.

The fans reaction was less than positive – for years the trophy has been our solace, a moment of glory for the thousands – it felt like a middle finger coming from the top down.

A Chance to Promote Youth

We were told it would give the younger players from big teams game time.

But there is already a system for that, players can be loaned out, it’s been working for generations. Players like John Terry, Steven Gerrard, and David Beckham all had loan spells and all captained England.

Looking back at Crewe well, we always seem to rely on young players and that reputation has encouraged a number of well known players to grace Gresty Road over the years.

In recent seasons fans have been told that money is tight and youngsters now expect big wages – so the loan system has been key – bringing the likes of Jamie Ness, Chuks Aneke and more through the gates at Crewe.

Combined with the Elite Player Performance Plan that changed the way clubs recoup money spent on developing youth, the beautiful game has been showing its ugly side to lower league fans.

Our trophy – our main chance at sampling what it feels like to be in with the winners – has now been replaced with a glorified friendly for the elites while our younger players are easier than ever to poach for nominal fees.

It’s for these reasons that I’m so glad the #BTeamBoycott worked so well for the first round of matches. Fans spoke with their feet leaving stadiums looking deserted. And believe me, it’s never easy turning your back on your club!

Are you in favour of the boycott? Will you be attending the EFL Trophy games? Comment below.


About Matt Jackson

Journalist and football fan. Once described as "politically correct to almost a fault" and "the worst kind of socialist". Always writing, inconsistently blogging.


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