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Shrewsbury Town vs Port Vale - Match preview

Steve Cotterill has questioned whether the EFL Trophy should become a ‘development competition’ – with the number of Premier League under-21 sides that compete in the competition.

Travis Hernes of Shrewsbury Town celebrates after scoring a goal to make it 1-0 with his team mates (AMA)
Travis Hernes of Shrewsbury Town celebrates after scoring a goal to make it 1-0 with his team mates (AMA)

The trophy, which traditionally was the cup competition between teams in League One and Two was revamped in 2016 to allow young top-flight outfits to enter – with four overage players named in sides.

Supporters were against the move and since their introduction six years ago attendances have dropped.

Although no youth side have ever won the competition, many supporters still dismiss the competition and insist it has lost its shine.

Tonight Salop host Port Vale for the second time in as many days – after Cotterill fielded his under-18s side in the previous round against a Wolves academy side.

And he believes there is an argument for now making the competition a development tournament.

He explained: “I don’t know why we don’t make it a development competition, if you know what I mean, I don’t know why we don’t do that.

“I think the Premier League sides have like 50, 60, 70 players, they don’t have to worry about playing Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday, they can field new teams.

“And they play in the teams they play in their league – so the competition is a really difficult balancing act and you try to use it as a development game, like it was against Wolves to find out where players are.

“But then against Port Vale we won’t put out a team of complete youngsters, there will be some senior players in there, players who didn’t get off the bench and they will have a good run and get minutes.”

Cotterill knows all too well what it is like to win the EFL Trophy – and was one of the last managers to win the competition before the Premier League young sides were introduced.

He was in charge of Bristol City as they beat Walsall 2-0 at Wembley in 2015 thanks to goals from Aden Flint and Mark Little.

Asked if the competition has lost a little of the shine to what it once had, the Salop boss said: “I don’t know. At the end of the day I managed in a final in front of 72,000 people at Wembley and it was fantastic. It is an opportunity for me to look at younger players who I don’t get to see as they play on a Saturday, but I see in training in the week, and I can see them better then in a game.

“I think we need to use it to find out a bit more about the boys we have got, some of them who have been on the bench.”

Elliott Bennett, Charlie Caton, Tom Bloxham and Harry Burgoyne – who were among the substitutes at Vale Park on Saturday – are in line for a start.

As are youngsters Josh Barlow and Kade Craig, who have been around the first-team squad already this season and played a part in the defeat to Wolves in the previous game.

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