Gloss coming off the JPT as interest and attendances continue to drop

The final defences for the existence of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy are being eroded, leaving it virtually defunct in the minds of managers and fans alike.

While it may not have the tantalising prospect of drawing a Premier League club, the JPT presents a genuine, miracle-free chance to reach a Wembley final.

It’s an opportunity for silverware taken by Mansfield (1987), Rotherham (1996) and Wrexham (2005) among many others who would normally only dream of reaching the FA Cup final. This possibility of glory, though, is no longer enough.

Cup competitions will always be looked down on by clubs who like to think they have other priorities. The high-flyers of League One will be more interested in promotion than the JPT, in the same way the top six of the Premier League will be more interested in Champions League qualification than FA Cup success.

The worry for the JPT organisers is that, if the letters page of the November edition of FourFourTwo (out now) is anything to go by, all the other clubs are starting to feel the same way.

Charlton vs Brentford on Wednesday evening was attended by just 3,486

In the past, the regional organisation of the trophy has meant managers and fans give it a semblance of respect. After all, nobody wants to lose to their local rivals, no matter what competition they are playing in.

However, the bizarre organisation leaves ‘local’ games like Northampton v Huddersfield a first round inconvenience. Combine this with the regionalisation of the Carling Cup first round - which offers the chance for local clubs from lower divisions to fight it out in the hope of a ‘big’ second round draw – has deflated the entire competition.

On Wednesday night, Charlton – unbeaten in League One so far – lost 3-0 at home to Brentford. The result, witnessed by a crowd of only 3,486, hardly made the morning papers. Up north on Tuesday, Huddersfield – on a rather stunning unbeaten league run themselves – lost on penalties to Bradford, while Sheffield United scraped through against Rotherham 2-1.

The results won’t concern Charlton or Huddersfield, who are battling for promotion. The Don Valley scoreline, rather than having the Blades’ rivals fearing a resurgence in form, will leave them with a wry smile at the extra game.

Even the teams already looking likely to be stuck around the middle of their division overwhelmingly now see the added games as a nuisance that overrides the exciting chance to reach Wembley. There is no magic, no chance of a major upset and very little glory.

When even the Carling Cup is more interesting than your competition, you know you are in trouble. It’s time the organisers of the JPT changed the format to make it worthwhile, or scrapped it all together as part of a complete shake-up of the English cup system.

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