The Papa John’s Trophy regularly gets mixed reviews. Some see it as the perfect opportunity to give minutes to squad players and win silverware, whereas others argue it clogs the fixture list.
Ahead of their second round clash against Portsmouth on Tuesday, Cheltenham Town manager Michael Duff explained that he enjoys this competition for a variety of reasons, including the ability to rotate his squad.
“It’s a chance for some players who need a bit of playing time to get back out on the field. Everyone will be needed,” he said.
“We’ll put out the strongest team possible because we want to be competitive and try to win.”
When asked whether he was apprehensive of free-scoring Portsmouth, the 42-year-old told the media that his side had no reason to be scared, but were aware of the threats they could face.
“We’ve played three games against League One opposition and won every time, but they’re a big, big team and this is their competition. They won it back in 2019 and reached the final last year,” he said.
“They’ve got a good manager, a good squad and a good way of playing, so we know that we will be up against it, but it’s a free hit.
“Along with Sunderland, they are the biggest team left in the competition.”
Duff also revealed that striker Reuben Reid would once again feature in the tournament and praised him for the influence he has had upon the squad.
“Reuben [Reid] has been so good. He’ll definitely play tomorrow and hopefully he can put in a good account of himself,” he said.
“He’s a senior player and he uses that experience to be a positive influence around the training ground. He maybe hasn’t played as much football as he would’ve wanted to, but the way he has gone about his business is exemplary.”
Despite their record-breaking start to this season, Duff was keen to stress that he was not going to get carried away, especially in the Papa John’s Trophy.
“We all want to win silverware when we have the chance, but it’s about looking at the bigger picture. We’re too far away from the final to start thinking about going to Wembley,” he said.
“If we get to the quarter finals and beyond, that’s when we can use it as motivation. The players shouldn’t need any motivation at the moment.”
He continued on that point and disregarded the stat that Cheltenham had enjoyed their best ever start to a Football League season.
“It means absolutely nothing if you don’t do anything with it. I’m not sure there’s going to be any plaques or anything that say ‘most points won at this stage’ because what we get at the end of the 46 games is the most important,” Duff said.