Wycombe boss Gareth Ainsworth calls for new EFL Trophy format to be given time

The revamped EFL Trophy needs at least six years to help develop any full England internationals, according to Wycombe boss Gareth Ainsworth.

The former Johnstone’s Paint Trophy has been rebranded, with 16 Premier League and Championship academy sides joining the League One and League Two cup contest.

Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham all rejected invitations to enter sides, but the likes of Chelsea and Everton have agreed to take part.

League Two side Wycombe will face West Ham in the group stage, with manager Ainsworth insisting the much-maligned new set-up will take years to bear fruit.

“If it helps the national game, which people are saying it might, then that’s going to take six to seven years – so let’s give this time,” Ainsworth told Press Association Sport.

“Some of the kids who will play in the trophy this year will one day play for England.

“They are at top clubs in the top Under-21s, they will be playing for the national side, so it’s great for them to have experience in competitive games like this. So only time will tell.

“An Under-21 team could win it, and I don’t know what that would do to the trophy, would it make it better, would it make it worse?

“They all may get knocked out. It’s a real hypothetical at the moment.”

Supporters of lower-league clubs have already hit out against the new EFL Trophy format, with threats of fixture boycotts widespread.

Ainsworth, however, sees the merit in the changes, provided tournament bosses allow the competition time to thrive.

The former Wimbledon and QPR midfielder could even feature in the competition, having registered himself as a player at the ripe old age of 43.

The extra fixtures will heap further pressure on Wycombe’s resources and Ainsworth admitted he hopes the top clubs do not load their sides with senior talent.

The Under-21 sides are allowed to field five overage players, leaving Ainsworth all too aware of the firepower Wycombe could face against West Ham.

West Ham’s Olympic Stadium deal does not stretch to hosting EFL Trophy fixtures, so Wycombe will entertain the Hammers at Adams Park.

“I am worried about the extra games if I’m honest, but I’m all for younger players getting experience,” said Ainsworth.

“I think we should bring the old reserve league back without a shadow of a doubt.

“That’s where I learned my trade. I was playing against Paul Gascoigne, Norman Whiteside, John Barnes when I was playing for Blackburn Rovers reserves.

“I think the teams will be strong, given they can play five overage players.

“Against West Ham I’m just hoping the likes of Dmitri Payet and Andy Carroll don’t turn up at Adams Park.

“It’s a bit disappointing that we won’t be playing at the Olympic Stadium, but we’re just glad for a home game if I’m honest.

“We’ve got a slim squad and I’m registered again at 43 years old, and my goalkeeping coach Barry Richardson is registered too.

“So you never know there could be two oldies making an appearance this year, we’ll see.

“I’m not saying I’d ever treat the competition lightly, but if it means keeping my boys fresh for the league I wouldn’t be deterred from sticking the boots back on.”

Source: PA

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