The Checkatrade Trophy has “killed itself”, according to Hartlepool United boss Craig Hignett. Pools’ involvement in the competition ended last week, with a loss to Rochdale making it three defeats out of three for Hignett’s men.
But the gaffer believes the competition, and the organisers of it, have turned a competition with identity, and a direct route for lower league teams to Wembley, into a farce.
He said: “I actually liked the competition how it was, there was a chance to get through, progress with an incentive.
“If they had stayed with it like it was then the competition was a chance for lower league teams to reach Wembley and have a go.
“Instead we have three games to play instead of one, so the competition has killed itself.”
Hignett questioned the rules of the competition also.
A number of fines were handed out to teams, some up to £15,000, for not fielding the correct number of first-team regulars this week.
It is the latest in a long line of controversies the trophy rulebook has thrown up this campaign. And Hignett, whose side were investigated for the team they picked against the Dale, is less than impressed.
“Even when it comes to the rules there’s a lot of question marks – bookings and sendings-off don’t count in Football League games from it,” he said.
“Some teams have budgeted for fines, win and you get ten grand, so then you get fined five.
“It’s a strange thing. With a really small squad, a core of 15/16 players then why would you risk them? I risked mine really because I had to.
“We went through all the different scenarios about most appearances, players who played the last game, players who play the next game and we still get questioned.
“It’s like two competitions, one rule for one, one for us. How can you develop kids for one team and not for the lower league teams?
“It’s more important to keep my players fit when we don’t have as many as the bigger clubs who have been invited to play in the competition.
“What Luton said isn’t far off the mark – the competition is dying to a certain extent.”