Checkatrade Trophy sinks to new low with £33m striker picked to face MK Dons. What happened to supporting young players?

Vicki Hodges
Michy Batshuayi played nine minutes against Atletico Madrid in Champions League on Tuesday night and then faced MK Dons in Checkatrade Trophy 24 hours laters - Getty Images

The Checkatrade Trophy opened itself to further ridicule and criticism after two Premier League clubs used the competition as a chance to give fringe players game time.

The 48-team knockout format allows Premier League clubs' under-21 teams to compete, essentially allowing young players at the big clubs a chance to gain vital experience and a platform to develop.

At the end of last season, clubs in League One and League Two voted in favour of retaining top-flight youth sides in the competition meaning the retention of the same format for this campaign.

Yet the presence of EIGHT established Premier League players, including one marquee £33m striker, was probably not what the EFL had in mind when they first revamped the competition.

Leicester fielded no less than six senior players worth over £45m of talent to help them get past Scunthorpe and into the last 16 of the Checkatrade Trophy.

Leciester fielded the 31-year-old Leonardo Ulloa against Scunthorpe Credit: Getty Images

Kelechi Iheanacho and Leonardo Ulloa are hardly the up and coming raw talent the competition would like to showcase. But the two joined Ben Hamer, Daniel Amartey, Yohan Benalouane, Aleksandar Dragovic in the starting line up as Leicester came through 2-1.

The rules of the competition state that clubs' starting XI have to be 21 or under and with Iheanacho turning 21 in October, and therefore not counting as an over-age player, Leicester manager Claude Puel was able to give some fringe players a run out ahead of the busy festive period.

Leicester weren't the only ones to take advantage of the flimsy ruling as Chelsea fielded fit again Michy Batshuayi against MK Dons last night.

The £33m Belgian striker is continuing a comeback from a foot injury and scored twice in front of just over one and a half thousand fans at Stadium:MK in Chelsea's 4-0 win which took them into the third round.

Michy Batshuayi shapes to shoot against MK Dons Credit: Getty Images

Batshuayi's appearance was made even more startling after he played nine minutes for Antonio Conte's side in the Champions League against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday night.

As well as the 24-year-old, Chelsea also fielded Brazilian Kenedy in the comfortable win.

MK Dons manager Robbie Neilson was not happy with the strength and seniority of Chelsea's line-up. Neilson told local paper MK Citizen: "It's not great getting beat by that score at home. It's one of the things with this tournament, it's difficult to know where they're going with it to be honest when you're playing Chelsea U21s and they've got a £35m striker and a £10m left-back playing.

"It was always going to be difficult for us tonight, and we played a few of the younger ones to give them some game time and experience. We're disappointed with the result, but it's a learning curve for them to play against players like that."

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He added: "We see this trophy as an opportunity to get to Wembley, but it's very difficult when teams put that kind of strike force out."

Coventry won last season's trophy, beating Oxford 2-1 at Wembley in April and manager Mark Robins was a keen advocate of the competition.

“The Checkatrade Trophy has been an invaluable experience for those players at an under-21 level to participate in senior football. It will certainly aid their development moving forward,” he said earlier this year. “We won the competition with what was primarily a young team, and if you can get to Wembley and experience a fixture in front of that many fans at the national stadium, it can only be a positive.”

Fans on social media, however, were quick to point out the unfairness of this year's competition.

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