Tag Archives: EFL

Checkatrade Trophy: The graveyard of English football

The short walk from Charlton train station to The Valley is usually marked by the familiar, life-affirming buzz of match-going fans.

Normally, chants of support are carried from the station platform all the way to the turnstiles. Children yap excitedly about the forthcoming to their parents. Scents of pie and beer are borne by the breeze, along with the shouts of programme sellers and charity collectors.

But ahead of Tuesday’s Checkatrade Trophy match against the might of Swansea City U21s,  there is none of that. The footsteps of the few diehard supporters puncture the silence in the approach to the stadium, which stands illuminated against the November night. The masses which usually surround it are nowhere to be seen. Tonight, The Valley is a mecca to no-one.

Of course, none of this is remotely surprising. The Checkatrade Trophy, formerly the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, has been the bane of clubs’ and supporters’ lives since its change in format in 2016.

That restructuring allowed Premier League and Championship clubs to enter age-group teams in a tournament that used to be strictly the preserve of those in the third and fourth tier of English football. The addition of a group stage to what was once a purely knockout competition has eradicated the appeal of a straight forward cup tie.

Braving the cold

The empty concourses at The Valley spoke volumes

That said, the competition had, until this clash, thrown up some interesting occurrences for the Addicks. A club-record 8-0 win was notched up against Stevenage, while bizarrely, a supporter proposed to his girlfriend at half-time of the 2-2 draw with AFC Wimbledon.

But whatever interest or excitement in the competition that had been generated in those two matches is undone by the arrival of the U21s of Swansea, a club just one division above Charlton.

With just 740 supporters (28 of whom are dedicated Swans fans) descending upon the 27,000-capacity Valley, this match feels more like a pre-season friendly than a key, group-deciding EFL Trophy match.

Only a limited portion of the west stand is open. The rest of the stadium stands bare as the shouts of players, coaches, and referee rebound across the ground’s emptiness and reverberate. Occasional cries of ‘come on you Reds’ from the more eager home supporters float hopelessly into the cold, dark sky.

The players do little to spark the small crowd into life. Swansea dominate the early exchanges, displaying the kind of crisp passing football the club has become famed for, but without ever applying the finishing touch.

Charlton, who have named a team far from their strongest, hustle and bustle but produce little in the way of quality.

Addicks anonymous

At half-time, the sense of boredom among the spectators is notable. In theory, this is a competition that should excite. The chance to win silverware is one that doesn’t come around all that often. Why, then, can the club barely attract 700 to a match with much at stake? Charlton need to avoid defeat in order to progress, so why can the Addicks’ faithful not be bothered to leave the house and cheer on their side, despite the low ticket prices offered by the club? 

The EFL have devalued and debased a trophy that was once coveted

The answer lies in the fact that the EFL, in their bid to increase the competition’s appeal by adding U21 teams from the big, shiny, attractive Premier League clubs, have only served to devalue and debase a trophy that was once coveted.

It’s frankly perverse that the young talent of Chelsea or Southampton should be able to deny lower-league clubs the chance to compete in a cup final at Wembley.

Having said that, the appeal of playing at the national stadium is one that seems to diminish season upon season.

The overuse of Wembley — for cup finals, cup semi-finals, play-off finals, not to mention the fact that Tottenham have used it as their home stadium, and welcomed a number of lower league sides in various cup ties — has stripped the home of English football of its mystique.

In reality, an appearance on the Wembley turf is a far cry from the footballing holy grail the FA seeks to present it as. The chance to play there, for many clubs, will not be worth the ordeal of having to negotiate the various stages of the Checkatrade Trophy.

At The Valley, a 20-yard strike from Swansea’s Adnan Maric ultimately condemns Charlton to defeat, knocking them out of the tournament at the group stage.

It’s a match defined by indifference. Indifference from the players, indifference from Addicks’ manager Lee Bowyer and his staff, and indifference from the few supporters who have braved the cold. The simple and sad truth is that no-one cares about the Checkatrade Trophy.

Photo of The Valley concourse by Ben Sutherland via flickr , and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

LISTEN: Elephant Sport’s EFL Podcast is back!

Aaron Paul and Shannon Gambling dissect the weekend’s action whilst looking at managerial movements within England’s second tier.

There is also a brief look at the plights of Charlton Athletic and Leyton Orient.

Audio clips from Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic is  available in the link below – courtesy of BBC Radio London

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Slavisa Jokanovic chats to BBC Radio London after Fulham’s 3-1 win over Newcastle United:

The FA Cup’s Top 5 ‘Cupsets’

cupset

n. (context sports British slang English) An upset in a cup competition.

After the heroics of Lincoln City and Millwall in this season’s Emirates FA Cup, Elephant Sport delves through the archives, and looks back at our top 5 cupsets of all time.

5: Bournemouth 2-0 Manchester United – FA Cup 3rd Round – 8/1/1984

Division Three strugglers knock out holders

Third division strugglers Bournemouth, managed by fledgling boss Harry Redknapp, upset the odds as they dumped cup holders Man Utd out of the competition.

The Reds, then managed by Ron Atkinson, were rocked by goals from Milton Graham and Ian Thompson as their star studded line-up, including the likes of Arnold Muhren, Arthur Albiston and England Captain Bryan Robson, were dismantled by the Cherries.

Trouble ensued on the terraces, but Bournemouth held on to record one of the biggest FA Cup upset’s of all time, on a day billed by Harry Redknapp as “The best of my life”.

4: Leicester City 1-2 Wycombe Wanderers – FA Cup 6th Round – 10/3/2001

The tale of the Teletext striker

Record fees, big wages, cheesy medical photos and managers hanging their heads out of cars. Those are some of the answer’s you expect to receive if you were to ask the regular football fan about the transfer window.

But take a trip back in time to 2001 and things were a little different for Wycombe Wanderers. With an injury list including SIX strikers , Wycombe manager and Cup hero Lawrie Sanchez turned to Teletext to fill the breach left by his depleted forward line.

The solo reply to his message came from Roy Essandoh, a forward who’s career had taken him to Scotland and Finland, via Austria. His impact as a second half substitute would send him into FA Cup folklore and the Chairboy’s into the semi-finals.

In an action-packed game at Filbert Street, Wycombe took the lead through a Paul McCarthy strike, and whilst Muzzy Izzet equalised for the hosts, Essandoh won it for the Chairboys.

Wycombe would go on to be knocked out in the semi-finals by Liverpool, with Emile Heskey and Robbie Fowler cancelling out Keith Ryan’s opener.

On a sadder note, the world of football lost McCarthy this week aged 45 with tributes pouring in for the former Wycombe and Brighton and Hove Albion defender.

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(Video Courtesy of FA TV)

3: Lincoln City vs Burnley – FA Cup 5th Round – 18/2/2017

Non League underdogs shock Premier League opponents

Lincoln City were history-makers as they broke a record dating back to 1914 by defeating Sean Dyche’s Premier League outfit.

The Imps, managed by brothers Danny and Nicky Cowley, struck in the 89th minute through a towering Sean Raggett header to take the non-leaguers through to the 6th round of this season’s Cup, a feat that had last been achieved by non-league QPR in 103 years ago.

But the Imp’s FA Cup story didn’t start in the 5th round, as they successfully negotiated their way through rounds 3 and 4 leaving Ipswich Town and Brighton & Hove Albion in their wake.

A champagne tie at the Emirates Stadium awaits them this weekend, which will no doubt boost the finances of a club that has seemingly steered itself out of troubled waters.

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(Video courtesy of FATV)

2: Liverpool 1-2 Barnsley – FA Cup 5th Round – 16/2/2008

Lets talk about facts

Barnsley, then managed by Simon Davey, head to Anfield languishing in the lower echelons of the Championship. The 90 minutes of football that ensued would be remembered by football fans across the nation.

Already under pressure following his failure to deliver silverware at Anfield, Rafa Benitez fielded a line-up that featured international pedigree including Xabi Alonso, Dirk Kuyt, Ryan Babel, Sami Hyypia and John-Arne Riise.

However the tricky Tykes were not star-struck as they levelled the game through Stephen Foster following Kuyt’s opener.

A string of saves from former Manchester United goalkeeper Luke Steele kept Barnsley in the tie, with Brian Howard winning it in the final minute to send them into Round 6.

Whilst Liverpool’s Cup campaign faltered, the Tykes then took another Premier League scalp in the form of Chelsea.

Kayode Odejayi netted the winner to dump the holders out of the cup that day, and send the Tykes to Wembley for a semi-final showdown with eventual runners-up Cardiff City.

A year later, Davey was sacked, and following spells with non-league Darlington and Hereford, has never managed professionally since.

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(Video courtesy of BBC/Barnsley FC)

1: Sunderland 1-0 Leeds United – FA Cup Final – 5/5/1973

“There is no way that Sunderland can beat Leeds”- Brian Clough

The big-spending Leeds United of the 1970s were simply a football machine, featuring some of the country’s finest footballing talent in their ranks.

They took on lowly Second Division Sunderland, managed by the charismatic Bob Stokoe, at Wembley and what followed would be widely classed as the greatest FA Cup shock of all time, and produced Sunderland’s solitary piece of post-war silverware.

The tie would be decided by two moments of brilliance, buoyed by Leeds’ instability. Sunderland took the lead through Ian Porterfield who slammed the ball past David Harvey in the Leeds goal.

A Leeds onslaught followed, with Sunderland keeper Jimmy Montgomery pulling off a string of fine saves, including one from Leeds maverick Peter Lorimer, to keep the Mackems in the game.

Sunderland held on to take the Cup and in turn send ‘Dirty Leeds’ back to Yorkshire without the trophy that they had clinched the season before against Arsenal.

It was a result that sent shockwaves through the footballing world.

Elephant Sport midweek Championship Podcast

Elephant Sport midweek Championship Podcast

Aaron Paul, Shan Gambling and Dan Racheter take a light hearted yet informative look at the goings-on in the EFL Championship, reviewing the weekend’s games, looking ahead to tonight’s fixtures (18/10/16) and exploring some of the league’s top news stories.

In this week’s podcast: Mick McCarthy and job security at Ipswich; Fulham’s much-needed win; Neil Warnock’s arrival at Cardiff, with an upturn in fortunes for Marouane Chamakh.

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