Norwich City not worried by controversy surrounding Checkatrade Trophy
- Credit: Daniel Hambury/Focus Images Ltd
The revamped competition may have been branded 'rubbish' by MK Dons boss Karl Robinson but Norwich City are determined to make the most of their Checkatrade Trophy campaign.
The Canaries are one of 16 clubs with Category One academies who have entered an under-23 team into the re-branded Football League Trophy – and have made a flying start.
Convincing away victories over the first teams of Peterborough (6-1) and Barnet (5-0) have secured progression from Southern Group F of the competition.
That leaves a final match against MK Dons at Carrow Road on Tuesday, November 8, to decide who finishes top of the group and gets home advantage in the first knockout round.
Dons boss Robinson is not a fan of the competition though, which forces U23s teams to pick six U21 players but allows three over-age outfield players and a goalkeeper, but states the League One and Two teams must start five first-team players.
'I think the rules need to change drastically, or don't have the competition,' Robinson told BBC Three Counties Radio. 'I don't think it is conducive to development anymore. I think it's rubbish.
'If they made this an open competition where we could all play our under-21s, play players to get fit, close half the stands, and make it more of a competition for development.
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'Don't make it just a development competition for Premier League teams when clubs like us work so hard to develop our own players.'
The young Canaries have not worried themselves with the controversy though, with Josh Murphy's hat-trick leading the way to victory at Barnet on Tuesday – leaving them five wins away from a Wembley final.
U23s coach Dmitri Halajko was boosted by the availability of big-money summer signings Nelson Oliveira and Alex Pritchard for the game but also started 16-year-old defender Timi Odusina, giving his team an average starting age of 20.9, as opposed to Barnet's 21.7 years old.
'Everyone's got their own opinions, which is fine,' Halajko said of the competition. 'Our opinions are that for us as a club it's been great, it's a great development tool for our players and we'll use it in a positive way to develop our players.
'So our club's view on it is that it's been positive.'
That view was bolstered by the presence of first-team manager Alex Neil, who led the half-time discussions as he looked to ensure City's 1-0 lead at the break was capitalised on, following a red card for Barnet skipper Bondz N'Gala.
'He's very supportive of the programme, every game he comes into the dressing room at half-time or full-time,' Halajko said of Neil's attitude to the games.
'At training sometimes our boys will go over to him and sometimes his boys will come over to us. The fact that we work so closely I think is a benefit to what we're doing.'
Now Halajko wants to see his players press on in the Checkatrade Trophy, so he can continue to take advantage of the opportunity to get valuable game-time for City's youngsters.
'It gives us more fixtures at this level, the more we have, the more we can develop our players,' he added. 'So we wanted to get out of the group and we've achieved that so it's job well done.'