On the road to Wembley (English version)

The third most prestigious knockout cup competition in the English Football League is the EFL Trophy. Annually competed for by the third and forth tiers of English football (EFL League One and EFL League Two). Presently it is generally known as the Checkatrade Trophy, from its current sponsorship deal. Since the 2016-17 season 16 under 21 teams from the first and second tiers (Premier League and EFL Championship) have been invited to enter. This is said to give some of the country’s youngest top players the chance to experience first team competitive football and help their progression.
However, this inclusion has caused a vast backlash from League One and League Two supporters and is known as the ‘B-Team boycott’. As a result the majority of matches have recorded very low attendances and generally labelled the competition as a joke and irrelevant. Whatever your opinion of the EFL Trophy it is an opportunity to see your team compete for silverware with a Wembley final and gain much needed income.
The competition’s format starts with Round 1, 16 regional groups of 4 teams. Only one per group of the invited U21 teams. The 4 group teams will play each other once, either home or away and the top 2 progress to the next knockout stage. Although the invited U21 only play group matches away. If after 90 minutes the game is drawn a penalty shoot out takes place awarding an extra point to the winning team.
Knockout Rounds 2 & 3 are still drawn on a regional basis. Teams who played in the group stages will not be drawn against each other.
Round 4 (Quarter finals) the regional draw is dropped and all teams are entered to draw each other.
Semi-finals are a one match tie home and away and as like the previous knockout rounds if after 90 minutes the score is tied then it progresses straight to penalty’s. However in the Final 30 minutes extra time will be played before penalty’s if needed.
Currently in League One, Portsmouth FC are the most successful club on the south coast of England. Bournemouth, Brighton and our much hated rivals Southampton (scum) are Premiership teams. However Pompey’s honours are greater than those three clubs combined. Our history is rich and colourful, good and bad. We are extremely proud of our beloved football club with a reputation throughout the country as very passionate and dedicated fans. In the past 10 years alone we have won the FA Cup (still to this day holding the biggest New Wembley attendance of 89,874 against Cardiff City), played in the premiership, suffered at the hands of corrupt ownership and entered administration twice, relegated 3 times in 4 consecutive seasons. Created a community trust and saved the club from closure. Unfortunately two seasons ago after being crowned League Two champions we voted to sell 100% shares to private American owners, something I strongly disagree with and voted against. Without a doubt securing promotion to League One against Notts County in the 2016-17 season was my proudest moment as a Pompey fan, as we had achieved this as a 100% community owned club. Voting to sell has left some what of a bad taste in my mouth. But as someone once said to me ‘it’s possible to divorce your wife but not your team’. I can certainly say one thing for sure being a Pompey fan is never boring.

At this moment in the 2018-19 season we are positioned fourth in the league. From September to December we were riding high at the top of the league. However, the January transfer window meant we lost 5 on loan players and seriously disrupted our form. Until this weekend just past we had not recorded a win in the league dropping us to the fourth position. Believing we could end the season with automatic promotion it is now a feeling of hoping we at least make the end of season play-offs. Time will tell what our league season outcome will be.
Unbeaten in every match of the Checkatrade Trophy we entered the semi-final drawn away against Bury FC. Who are currently 2nd in League 2. Bury is 250 miles (400km) distance from Portsmouth. A journey that should take 4 hours but was actually close to 6 hours due to the over congestion and many roadworks scattered over the British road network. The attendance for the match was 3,900 which 452 was us Pompey fans. The first half of the match was a tight affair with a 0-0 score heading into the second half. Three Portsmouth goals in the 61, 64 and 77 minutes in the second half has secured us a place in the March 31st final at Wembley.

Our opponents in the final is yet to be decided. Bristol Rovers will play Sunderland this week to decide that outcome. Both teams also from League one. Details released this week have indicated that an allocation of just under 40,000 tickets will be available to us for the final. Also awarded the home changing room we will be housed in the west side of the stadium. Giving us preference of wearing our home strip of blue, white and red. Despite many still planning to boycott the tournament and Wembley final I am pretty confident that we will sell the majority of our allocated tickets if not all. Sunderland are currently 3rd in League one and Bristol Rovers are 21st. However I would personally prefer Sunderland to progress to the final. Purely for the reason that Sunderland would bring a vast more amount of supporters than Bristol Rovers, contributing to a well attended final with a great atmosphere.

North Harbour
‘up the blues’

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