Greg Dyke
Greg Dyke
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The Johnstone’s Paint Trophy has its critics but also delivers a decent excitement level in its final stages.

Look how things panned out with Preston in January when they reached the northern area final against Walsall.

A Wembley trip loomed on the horizon, only for it to fade as the Saddlers defence refused to budge over two legs.

The disappointment felt at missing out on the final showed that the competition carries some clout the further you go in it.

In a fortnight’s time, Walsall will take upwards of 28,000 to Wembley and their opponents Bristol City had by this week sold 37,000.

Would sales be that strong if the opponents for either that day were a Premier League club’s Under-21s side?

Going forward, that could become reality after the ‘B team’ idea reared its ugly head on the agenda this week.

You might remember that last summer, FA chairman Greg Dyke put forward an idea of allowing Premier League clubs to field B teams in the Football League Pyramid.

Such a suggestion drew much criticism and was rejected out of hand by the 72 Football League clubs.

It now appears that the JPT is being proposed as a way to get the B team idea off the ground in a limited way.

League One and Two teams have been asked to consider the idea of allowing Under-21s sides from 16 Premier League clubs to join the competition.

A revamp of the JPT would see it feature 16 groups of four teams – each with an Under-21s side in.

That would then lead into a knockout stage, culminating in a Wembley final.

Basically, those behind the Premier League B team idea are seeking entry by the back door into the Football League pyramid.

Surely it would water down the appeal of the JPT which struggles anyway to attract the crowds in the earlier rounds.

Many supporters would think twice about paying to watch their team take on a team of Premier League kids, however good their pedigree.

Without being disrespectful, would Sunderland reserves lure you out of the house on a chilly November night?

The exciting bit of the JPT is the fact its final takes place at Wembley.

Apart from the play-offs, it is the only realistic chance for many clubs to play there.

Should a Premier League B team be allowed to obstruct that path?

Would 37,000 supporters from a top-flight club fork out for a Wembley trip should their youngsters get there?

I wager they would not, there is simply not the attraction.

The chance for Premier League players to tread the Wembley turf comes in the FA Cup and League Cup.

So why block the opportunity for those lower down the football ladder to have their chance?

It is like Football League clubs being allowed to enter their reserves into the FA Trophy or FA Vase.

The JPT proposal is still at the discussion stage and the Football League stress that no vote has taken place.

I do fear that allowing Under-21s sides in would leave ajar the door to B teams joining the league, maybe not straight away but somewhere down the line.

While supporters of the B team concept point to how well it works in some other countries, that does not necessarily mean it would do likewise here.

The English league set-up has far more strength and depth to it than the majority, if not all, other countries.

Where else do games in the third and fourth tiers attract the crowds they do here?

I accept that the stars of the future need to get out of their comfort zone and test themselves beyond the Under-21s league. That is where the loan system comes into its own.

Glance through team sheets in the Championship, League One and League Two today, and there will be a host of lads on loan from Premier League sides.

Preston’s side at MK Dons will include Sam Johnstone and Callum Robinson, their hosts are likely to have Lewis Baker from Chelsea playing.

In the reverse fixture at Deepdale before Christmas, Benik Afobe was in MK’s front line during a loan spell from Arsenal.

He has since joined Wolves in a big-money move, the loan leading to bigger things.

From a PNE perspective, the proposed changes to the JPT would no longer be their problem if they got promoted to the Championship.

But there is a principle here and I do not think having the Under-21s in the competition would add any value to it. Leave it as it is.