Christian Burgess: Checkatrade Trophy inspired my Portsmouth first-team return
Christian Burgess has credited the Checkatrade Trophy with helping reclaim his first-team presence.
The central-defender has been ever-present throughout the Blues’ progress in the often-maligned competition.
With seven appearances, nobody has featured more in the Checkatrade Trophy this season, with Sunday’s Wembley final now beckoning.
Forced out of Kenny Jackett’s starting XI through the form of Jack Whatmough, Burgess has maintained a dignified patience during lengthy spells on the sidelines.
Instead it was a competition attracting the lowest crowds in Pompey history which would provide crucial match fitness.
It enabled Burgess to swiftly settle back in the side once Whatmough suffered serious injury – and the 27-year-old is now heading to Wembley.
He said: ‘We sort of joked in the early stages of the competition about the road to Wembley.
‘Every time we won we would say it – and now we’re actually going to be there!
‘The Checkatrade Trophy has been good for me, I’ve managed to play games and get some match fitness, just getting out onto the pitch. That was needed when not playing regularly.
‘It has meant I could get out on the grass and keep playing football, maintaining my fitness levels.
‘That’s crucial when you are not playing regularly in the league, so the competition has been ideal for me.
‘Every time a Checkatrade Trophy game came around, it was another important occasion for me to go out and play. You have to be ready should the first-team call arrive.
‘Those matches boost your confidence. You have to go in there and show a good attitude, but also look to win.
‘It’s about keeping good habits and maintaining momentum. Now we’re going to Wembley.’
Burgess had to endure an injury scare during the semi-final victory at Bury.
Thankfully his ankle problem was not as severe as initially believed, allowing him to continue his first-team run.
And the former Peterborough man believes the Checkatrade Trophy serves an important purpose.
Burgess added: ‘Clean sheets weren’t imperative in those games, but they were nice when we did get them.
‘It was also good to blood younger players through. I’ve played a lot with Matt Casey, which was good for both of us.
‘The Checkatrade Trophy ensured I had a bit of fitness – and wasn’t completely in the dark when called upon.’