Aston Villa’s Under 23 side will compete for the EFL Trophy in the upcoming season – but what exactly does this mean?
Words by Simon Lines | @simonlines
Aston Villa’s promotion to the Premier League thrown up so many possibilities for the club.
This week, it was announced that Aston Villa, alongside Liverpool and Manchester United, will be joining the EFL Trophy for the 2019/20 campaign as Category One Academy sides. Recent winners of the trophy have been Coventry City, Portsmouth and Lincoln City.
The format sees sixteen invited sides joined by 48 clubs from League One and League Two to compete in the competition. The EFL Trophy replaced the former Johnstone’s Paint Trophy with a lot of controversy.
League teams felt the tournament had been compromised by the inclusion of youth teams, leading to the wide scale boycott of games in the first season of the new format and therefore record low attendances. Portsmouth vs Northampton Town attracted a crowd of 1,780 whilst Middlesbrough had their lowest ever attendance at The Riverside Stadium in a competitive fixture when only 308 spectators watches Middlesbrough take on Shrewsbury Town in November 2016.
Invited sides are selected based upon the club’s league position at the end of the previous season, and those with the highest positions with a Category One Academy status are invited to take part. Aston Villa have been unable to take part in the tournament in the last three seasons due to their relegation from the Premier League in 2015/16, meaning next season’s trophy will be the first time that the young lions in Aston Villa’s Under 23 side will have competed.
The Round One Group Stage draw will take place in July, with the first fixtures scheduled for the week commencing 2nd September 2019. Joining Aston Villa and the 48 EFL clubs in the tournament will be Arsenal, Brighton, Chelsea, Everton, Fulham, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle, Norwich, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United and Wolves.
Whilst there are valid grounds for the controversy and backlash in regards to the competition format, it will provide a platform for Aston Villa’s young talent to experience first-team football. It also proves the youngsters to show Dean Smith what they are all about – which is good, as how many times have we seen youngsters reach their mid-twenties without kicking a ball for the first team?
For Aston Villa, they’ll be hoping for a successful run in the competition and a chance to return to Wembley next year.