Dave Seddon’s pressview

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I will divert, if I may, from this column’s usual main theme of all things Preston North End and instead focus on the Checkatrade Trophy.

That is the competition we used to know as the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, or the Autowindscreens Shield, or the Leyland Daf Trophy or the Sherpa Van Trophy.

At the start of the season, it was briefly called the EFL Trophy – not to be confused with the EFL Cup – before Checkatrade came along with their sponsorship.

Two rounds of group games into the tournament, and all I can say is thank goodness North End aren’t in it.

The changes made to the competition this season have devalued it and left it open to ridicule.

It was decided that the introduction of Premier League Under-23s teams – and some from the Championship – would be the saviour of English football.

Supporters immediately smelt a rat, it being perceived as a sneaky back door route for ‘B’ teams to be absorbed into the Football League.

‘Not so’ argued league officials, their introduction merely one of a few ideas to revamp a tournament they regarded as having gone stale.

Let’s start with that point that the competition has lost its vim and vigour.

I would argue against that, bearing in mind the near 60,000 crowd at Wembley for last season’s final and more than 72,000 the year before.

This tournament has always been a slow-burner – from its embryo days as the Associate Members Cup in the 1980s – one where the crowds grow as you go along.

With a touch of nostalgia, I will recall North End’s run to the northern area final in 1988.

Attendances in the early rounds were not great but as a possible trip to Wembley loomed into view, there was far more interest.

I was among more than 2,000 PNE fans who made the trip on a wet and windy night Wednesday night to Hartlepool that year.

Victory there meant two legs against Burnley in the area final – the second leg being a painful one.

The big crowds at Turf Moor and Deepdale showed that the further you went, the greater the attendances.

And that has been the theme ever since, clubs accepting that the turnstiles won’t be clicking too much to begin with.

So the going stale argument doesn’t particularly wash.

Introducing a group stage this season was a backward step, a return to how it was when the competition started.

Mini-leagues provide little excitement compared to knock-out football.

It could be that some of the final group games next month are dead rubbers.

If attendances were not low enough already, just think how sparsely populated the stands could be if that is the case.

The Under-23s idea won’t work, if this is a way of unearthing future England players, then we could be in for a barren time on the international front.Some of the Premier League clubs who have entered teams just appear to be regarding it as a reserve league extension.

They have to play at least six players aged under 21 which is fair enough.

But what about the other five? How was the long-term health of the England game helped by Stoke playing 30-year-old Scottish midfielder Charlie Adam at Morecambe on Tuesday night?

That is not a pop at Adam by the way, it is aimed at the rule makers.

If the idea of allowing Premier League and some Championship clubs to field Under-23s teams is to blood youngsters early, why not go the whole hog and state that all the XI has to be aged under 21 or 23?

The selection rules which govern the League One and Two clubs in the tournament, are somewhat different.

The onus on them is to field stronger teams – field at least five players who played in the previous league game.

Or if they make mass changes, five of the players from the Checkatrade Trophy have to feature in the next league match.

To get round those rules, we have seen players being subbed after a couple of minutes.

It happened this week at Bradford with their goalkeeper and has happened a number of times over the last few seasons.

That is not a new rule and is probably one that needs a review.

This season’s Checkatrade Trophy format is a pilot project and it must be hoped that officials see the error of their ways.

The EFL have been strong in their defence of it this week but what would happen if it is two Under-23s side competing in the Wembley final?