James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: Please don’t deny us some Checkatrade schadenfreude

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Please, please, please, do not scrap the Checkatrade Trophy.

One of the great joys of seeing Sheffield United promoted back to the Championship is, professionally speaking, knowing this much-maligned competition will not feature in my diary next term.

Regan Slater celebrates his goal in the Checkatrade Trophy. Pic Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Regan Slater celebrates his goal in the Checkatrade Trophy. Pic Simon Bellis/Sportimage

So if English Football League clubs vote to abolish it, which features among the proposals tabled by chief executive Shaun Harvey ahead of a review next month, then I (and probably a great many others) will feel pretty short-changed.

How better to celebrate this season’s achievements than, when the draw is made later this summer, sit back with a big glass of red and watch other journalists and supporters plan midweek journeys to Accrington Stanley and Carlisle? (Theresa May isn’t the only person capable of performing a mammoth u-turn when it suits).

I raise this point because, in all seriousness, towards the end of United’s involvement, it did serve a purpose with Steelphalt Academy graduates such as Regan Slater, Sam Graham and David Brooks able to gain valuable experience. Admittedly, the whole thing descended into farce when Chris Wilder’s team was fined following their final group tie against Grimsby for fielding too many kids in a tournament ostensibly designed to promote young talent.

But, Bramall Lane’s brightest up-and-coming players at least enjoyed some exposure. Something many of us would like to see happen again, given that the League One title is already in the bag, during the final two matches of the present campaign.

But will he get a game this season? Pic Simon Bellis/Sportimage

But will he get a game this season? Pic Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Wilder is probably torn between selecting them and staying loyal to those players who, despite looking set to move on shortly, have served him so well this term. I can understand and appreciate his predicament. Also the fact that, boasting an emotional bond with many of these first team squad members, he is likely to err on the side of seniority.

But, given that the EFL has recently introduced a rule requiring members to name at least one club-developed player on their team sheets from the start of the 2018/19 season, Graham, Slater and Co need to be brought through sooner rather than later.

It should prove easier to provide a pathway now that United have clawed themselves out of the third tier. In the second, with no Checkatrade Trophy to worry about, coaching staff will hopefully use both the League and the FA cups to, surrounded by some old heads and established performers, provide them with first team exposure.