Senior figures in football came together on Wednesday 13th July to discuss the benefits and possible impact of the Checkatrade Trophy following the group stage draw in London.
The 16 invited under-21 teams, including newcomers Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, have joined the 48 clubs from Sky Bet League One and League Two to make up this season’s competition.
The groups have now been finalised, with World Cup-winning England Under-20s head coach Paul Simpson joining former Nottingham Forest and Leeds United midfielder David Prutton to draw the 16 invited under-21 teams into the Northern and Southern sections of the competition.
Sky Sports presenter Jules Warren, who hosted the draw, was also joined on stage by Everton Under-21 manager David Unsworth, Peterborough United boss Grant McCann and Wycombe Wanderers chairman Andrew Howard to give their reactions and discuss the principle aims of the competition.
In addition, EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey spoke in depth about the competition’s format changes prior to the draw and the benefits the Checkatrade Trophy will provide for all participating clubs.
Simpson, who won the competition as a player, praised the format and believes it will only benefit the English game in the long run.
“We want all young English players to get as much first-team experience as possible.
“It is a brave decision by the EFL to have made the necessary format changes. The biggest challenge for English footballers is getting the chance to play first-team football against senior players, but this competition gives them that chance.”
Following the draw, the event concluded with a question and answer session, hosted by Warren, with Unsworth, McCann and Howard all involved.
Howard, who saw his side reach the semi-finals last season, said: “We have got young players in our team that have aspirations to play at the highest possible level.
“When they are playing against young players at Premier League and Championship clubs, it is a good benchmark and gives them something to look towards.”
Unsworth, who saw his side participate in the Checkatrade Trophy last season, is again looking forward to seeing how his young side fare against experienced EFL professionals.
“We are a massive advocate of this competition,” he explained. “We’re looking forward to competing in the competition once again. Our intentions this season are to go further and reach the final at Wembley.
“The EFL must be commended for seeing that opportunity to do something different and try and help young English players improve. It is important for young players to go up against senior players as early as they possibly can.
“It helps develop them both physically and mentally from a technical and tactical side. They come on quicker and that is key as the Checkatrade Trophy provides that opportunity.”