By Nathan BeesThe Johnstone’s Paint Trophy is often viewed as being an unwanted distraction by lower league football managers, and Northampton Town boss Chris Wilder this week suggested scrapping it altogether.
Admittedly it is the least prestigious of the three cup competitions clubs at our level enter, but I have to say I don’t understand the hate. I know it doesn’t have the same romance or glamour of the FA Cup, for example, but I feel the JPT is a good competition for clubs in Leagues One and Two.
Look at it this way - are you ever likely to win the FA Cup? No, probably not. In the JPT, however, you have a tremendous chance of making it to Wembley and winning a piece of silverware - something that will go down in your club’s history. That should mean it is a competition that is treated with respect in my humble opinion, because surely the whole point of competitive football is to win and be successful?
The early draws may be uninspiring, but the important thing is that every tie is eminently winnable. You don’t have to travel too far as the draw is split geographically and once you get through the first couple of rounds a date at Wembley becomes a genuine possibility. Just because supporters do not turn out in force in the early rounds does not mean it is a competition that should be disregarded. As a manager, if you are serious about being successful you should relish the prospect of leading your side to a trophy - it is something that can never be taken away from you.
A lot of the time I think it is a case of managers just looking for an excuse when their team gets knocked out of the JPT (Wilder’s suggestion came after Northampton had lost 2-0 at Millwall). I do not believe they can go into any game and genuinely think: ‘I don’t care if we lose this one’.
Job security as a football manager is virtually non-existent, so I don’t buy that they are simply willing to write off their results in the JPT. They cannot afford to. At the end of the day football is a results business and a defeat in any competition puts added pressure on the manager. That is the way of the modern game.
Thankfully our very own Darrell Clarke treats every game as if it is the most important fixture of the season, and his words in the build-up to Tuesday evening’s game were very encouraging. He explained that he prefers having lots of games in quick succession as it is an opportunity for his team to build some momentum. That is why he takes every cup competition seriously regardless of its stature, and I for one am pleased this is the case.
It may not be at the top of our list of priorities, but Bristol Rovers should want to win every game they play in and that is exactly the sort of attitude Darrell is trying to instil in the club.
It was a thoroughly entertaining game in midweek against a strong Wycombe Wanderers side and I thought it was a great advert for the JPT. Both teams were bang up for it and produced a very good game of football.
The most important thing from a Gas perspective, though, was that we were the better team and deservedly won the tie 2-0. I thought some of the football we played was outstanding and our attacking players were an absolute nuisance to the Wanderers back-line all evening. It was a joy to watch.
We look as though we are finally starting to show what we are capable of after a disappointing spell of results in September. We followed up our win at Hartlepool United 10 days ago with an outstanding victory at Morecambe last weekend, and to make it three on the bounce in midweek was the ideal way to head into our international break. It was vitally important that we got a victory on our own patch again and for it to come against a side who currently sit 2nd in the division should inspire plenty of confidence amongst both the playing squad and the supporters.
Whilst I agree with the decision to postpone tomorrow’s League Two clash with Wycombe due to our three international call-ups, I am frustrated that we do not have the opportunity to continue our good form. Plus, from a purely selfish point of view, I will be completely lost without a Rovers game this weekend. It is like the summer all over again; trying hopelessly to fill the void that a lack of football creates!
I would like to wish Jake Gosling, Ellis Harrison and Tom Lockyer the best of luck in their international endeavours over the next few days, though. Hopefully they will do themselves proud and return to Bristol fit and ready to take on Mansfield Town next Saturday.
Up the Gas!