IF the bigwigs at Johnstone’s Paint HQ ever wonder why they bother ploughing the company’s hard-earned cash into sponsoring what used to be known as the Football League Trophy, they could do worse than arrange an outing to Don Valley Stadium next week.
Because there, on Tuesday evening, two teams who afford the competition the respect it deserves will scrap it out for the right to earn a place in the Northern Area quarter-finals.
These Uniteds - from Rotherham and Sheffield - have made no attempt to disguise the fact that they quite fancy the prospect of visiting Wembley on March 25. Others, including many of their near neighbours, can scarcely conceal their contempt and disdain.
While those clubs who adopt such a stance, especially those in a region which has been starved of success in recent seasons, never cease to amaze, it would be churlish not to have some sympathy for claims this tournament is nothing but an irritating addition to what is already a congested fixture calendar. Promotion is inevitably a priority for managers who now last on average only 1.4 years in their respective jobs.
Indeed, many of those associated with next week’s visitors to the DVS argued that reaching the last four of both the League and FA cups in 2003 was ultimately responsible for costing them a top-flight place a month later when they were beaten in the play-off final by Wolverhampton Wanderers.
A compelling argument or complete and utter tosh? Given that earlier that season they were claiming to be the fittest team in the division - a boast borne out by the gargantuan effort Neil Warnock’s side produced to overcome Nottingham Forest a match before - it is definitely the latter.
They failed to turn up. Pure and simple. It was the same story when United reached the end-of-term shoot-out in 2009 having been knocked out at the third and fifth-round stages respectively.
In Pele’s autobiography he recounts how, having emerged as the most marketable footballer on the planet, he made 104 appearances for Santos, Brazil and the army in 1959 alone.
True, the modern game is superior in terms of pace, power and athleticism to the one young Edson Arantes Do Nascimento was transfixing at the time. But it beggars belief that anyone plying their trade in the bottom two tiers now can claim to be under greater pressures than those endured by the magician from Minas Gerais.
Scroll forward more than five decades and Barcelona, with Lionel Messi pulling the strings, packed 62 contests into their most recent campaign.
Pele won three World Cups and countless other medals during his glittering career. Nearly 20 already reside in Messi’s trophy cabinet.
Surely every professional wants to be part of a successful team? And the funny thing is, they tend to play more games.
It goes with the territory. Is part of the deal. An idea that Andy Scott and Danny Wilson seem to grasp.