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The NEW Improved* EFL Trophy

Today, as well as the launch of the new kits, Reading's academy were drawn into EFL Trophy Southern Group A alongside Bristol Rovers, Portsmouth, and Yeovil. With away trips to Fratton Park and the Memorial Ground there's certainly incentive for our fans, but I'm still against academy sides entering the competition.

For one, part of this seems to have been set up for the Premier League sides but the likes of Arsenal, the Manchester clubs, and Liverpool are conspicuous in their absence; the addition of Championship clubs seems to be in response to this snub. The emphasis on academies playing one team at the club's 'actual' stadium was surely so some sides get the chance to play at Old Trafford, Anfield, and The Emirates. So while Oxford get the chance to play at Stamford Bridge and Northampton will visit the Olympic Stadium others will end up with a trip to The Hawthorns, The AMEX, and Carrow Road which is less glamorous.

I'm not entirely sure what side teams will end up fielding. From our perspective I would much rather our top talents go out on loan to get experience throughout the season - rather than in three glorified friendly games. So we'll likely end up with those that can't make the first team squad plus a few second string youngsters. Bearing in mind Aston Villa's U21s lost to Biggleswade and ours could not overcome Basingstoke it's going to be interesting. Heaven forbid anyone gets injured.

Presumably to incorporate the changes, there's now a group stage. In a climate where the Premier League are continually complaining about the amount of games they have to play, those in the Trophy now have, potentially, two more than they would have had to begin with. Alongside the league, the League Cup - that starts in the first week of the season, and the FA Cup - whose first round is the same week as the last group games of the Trophy, teams will be playing at least fifty-one games.

Frankly the lower leagues are not there for the sake of teams in the Premier League (and Championship). I was lucky enough to go to the final in 2009 and it was one of the greatest matches I've witnessed - Luton eventually winning in extra time after Claude Gnakpa came off the bench to nick it 3-2. I hope this is an abject failure. 

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