The long-rumoured plans for top academy sides to be included in the EFL trophy came to fruition yesterday, when it was announced that 16 Category One Academies would compete in the tournament.
That of course includes Tottenham’s U21 side. Each academy team will be drawn in one of 16 groups of four, with the other three places in each group being made up of local League 1 and League 2 clubs.
The top two from each group will go through to the knockout round of 32 teams, with a place at Wembley waiting for the finalists.
It’s this chance of reaching a Wembley cup final that is at the heart of why so many fans of lower league clubs are angered by this change. Aside from the play-offs, the EFL Trophy is the most realistic chance of these clubs playing at Wembley and winning a cup.
Recent finals have seen the likes of Chesterfield, Crewe, Peterborough, Bristol City and Barnsley lift the trophy, so it’s understandable that supporters are less than impressed at the idea of watching Arsenal and Chelsea’s U21 sides battling it out at Wembley instead.
Yet while this controversial change is not great news for football’s minnows, it does represent a good opportunity for academy teams such as Spurs, to test their youngsters against senior players without sending them out on loan.
Last season saw Tottenham reduce the numbers of players loaned out, so this competition could be a good opportunity for highly-rated kids such as Cameron Carter-Vickers, Marcus Edwards, Kyle Walker-Peters and Harry Winks to go up against some senior professionals, while continuing to learn from the training methods of Mauricio Pochettino and his staff.
That said, the club has yet to announce whether it will take up the offer to enter the competition. Manchester United have already declined and it’s been suggested that Liverpool will follow suit.