International Brakes

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Jimmy smashes the CheckaTrade Charade.

So the Checkatrade charade is over for another year. In fact for us, it’s hopefully over for a good few years if you get what I mean. I think I can safely say that I couldn’t care less, and neither, evidently did the management, given the barely foetal team that they put out on Tuesday. Never was the phrase “men against boys” more apt.

It is a shame that this competition has become a subject of such derision but hey, we didn’t start it! It was the powers that be in football, the ones who decide what is good for us who decreed that they would turn it into a reserve team competition and anger the fans of so many lower league clubs who have walked away following the changes to the format.

It would not surprise me if it went the same way as the Anglo-Italian Cup, the Simod Cup, the Watney Cup and the Fray Bentos Trophy. OK , I made the last one up.

It may be sacrilegious to say it but the League is king nowadays and I say that whilst dodging bricks, given the affinity with which Wigan Athletic fans hold the FA Cup. Yet if we cared about it that much, there would have been 10,000 on against Crawley not 3,000 of us.

It’s frustrating but I get that, as we are all at a different stage of life in our supporting journey from different backgrounds. When I was young, free and single, I consumed football as often as I could get it and the more games that Wigan Athletic played the better in my eyes. Free from the shackles of anything else to with my time or money, I couldn’t understand why everyone wasn’t like me.

I even used to love going to the reserve games at Springfield Park. You could get in for free with a season ticket and sit and enjoy the game with a pie and a coffee (no beer served back then – things have definitely improved in some ways!)

I don’t have the time now but even if I did have the time I perhaps wouldn’t be as keen, it is just the way football has gone. The Premier League is everything, staying in the Premier League is everything, finishing fourth in the Premier League is everything. And why? Because getting in the Champions League is everything!

So the big clubs de-prioritise the other cups and field a reserve team, so why should anyone else take it seriously? Clubs outside the Prem are also league focussed: whether trying to get in the Premier League or trying to get in a division or even stay in a division where they have a chance of getting into the Premier League in our case.

It’s hard to believe now that a few decades ago teams played with no sub, then just one for many years and they played broadly the same amount of games, and certainly didn’t have any fancy pants International breaks. Now we have the concept of the “squad”, and of course many teams have large squads and need to utilise them in the lesser cup games (though Paul Cook took it to an extreme this week!)

The fitness and professionalism has increased certainly, but that has solely been due to the large amounts of money flooding into the game and the easy accessibility to a global market demanding it. In spite of this, we are told that today’s supercharged athletes can’t cope with two games a week when fat blokes with sideburns who liked a pint and a tab found it no problem a few years back!

Where was I? Oh yes – let me be the first to say “We can now concentrate on the league!” Or indeed the FA Cup as well in our case!

Article first published in the Wigan Evening Post’s 12th Man column on Friday 10th November 2017

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