OPINION: Blackpool’s EFL Trophy loss at Carlisle United was an underwhelming night in every sense

Blackpool's midweek EFL Trophy tie at Carlisle United attracted another three-figure attendance for the revamped competition
Blackpool's midweek EFL Trophy tie at Carlisle United attracted another three-figure attendance for the revamped competition
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While Blackpool’s performance at Carlisle United in midweek left a lot to be desired, it’s difficult to muster up too much ire about a defeat in the EFL Trophy.

The oft-maligned competition has been completely devalued by the introduction of Premier League Under-21 sides, which has led to a pretty successful boycott to date.

Just 911 fans bothered to watch Pool’s 2-1 defeat at Brunton Park on Tuesday night, 200 of those coming from the Fylde coast.

That crowd represented the sixth lowest in Carlisle’s history according to their local paper, the News and Star.

Indeed, eight of the smallest 12 Brunton Park crowds have all come since 2016 in the supposedly “new and improved” EFL Trophy format.

This is far from an isolated incident, too, with the vast majority of crowds dwindling to three figures.

Blackpool is a special case, of course, attracting more than 2,000 fans for their 5-1 thrashing of Morecambe earlier in the season.

The Seasiders are a special case though, being in the unusual position where supporters are excited to watch their team – irrespective of the competition – after years of boycotting.

It says more about the club’s struggles than it does for any particular love or affection for the EFL Trophy, despite Blackpool winning the competition during its different format on two occasions.

Unless your side gets to Wembley for a nice day out, this competition is pretty much worthless. That’s the EFL’s own doing.

Carlisle made nine changes to their side on Tuesday, while Blackpool made eight. It was a who’s who of fringe players and youth-teamers.

The atmosphere, as you would expect with such a low crowd, was virtually non-existent.

Brunton Park was eerily silent, the fans who did attend quickly realising they were watching nothing more than a glorified reserve fixture.

The competition has always been one viewed with disdain, from fans, managers and players alike. It’s an irrelevance which just adds further fixtures to an already congested schedule.

But the EFL’s insistence of including academy sides has driven even more away, many suspicious this is the thin end of the wedge when it comes to introducing B teams into England’s football pyramid.

The EFL insist this is not the case, but can we trust a thing they say when their former chief executive came clean last week and admitted he wanted to hold a cup draw in space?

An Under-21 side has yet to reach the final of the competition, but it’s only a matter of time until it happens.

Can you imagine a Wembley showpiece with two Under-21 sides taking on one another in front of 3,000 fans? The very idea of it is farcical, but perhaps we need it to happen to highlight the issue.

Blackpool can, of course, still qualify should they earn a positive result against Wolves’ youngsters at Bloomfield Road next month.

Off the pitch, there have been some significant developments this week with the appointment of Ben Mansford as the club’s new chief executive.

He arrives with a stellar CV from Israeli club Maccabi Tel Aviv, having also operated in similar roles at Yorkshire sides Barnsley and Leeds United.

Simon Sadler has now brought in his own men at the top table, with Mansford to work alongside Brett Gerrity and Linton Brown.

There’s no doubting the quality or the experience of those Sadler has brought to the club and the Seasiders now appear well prepared to embark on the next stage of what will surely be an exciting new future.

It’s important to reflect on the sterling work done by both Tim Fielding and Ian Currie, who have both stepped down from their roles on the board following Mansford’s appointment.

The duo were brought in by the receiver at the back end of last season to help get the club back on its feet at what must have been a fairly shambolic time behind the scenes.

Tim, especially, has been a vital go-between to keep supporters engaged with the latest goings-on.

Given his involvement in the setting up of SISA, which later became BST, and for being sued by the previous owners for stating what would later become known as the truth, I’m confident Tim will always be held in the highest of regards among the club’s fanbase.

I know he was always willing to go the extra mile to do whatever it took to, firstly getting the previous owners out and secondly, helping the new man in any way, shape or form.

His years of tireless work and campaigning will not be forgotten. But his job is done now and he can go back to supporting his club on a Saturday afternoon – which is what the whole fight was for.