Portsmouth open to pre-season date for forgotten EFL Trophy final against Salford - and ditching Wembley

Pompey are open to the forgotten EFL Trophy final serving as a pre-season opener for the 2021-22 campaign.

By Neil Allen
Thursday, 28th January 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 28th January 2021, 12:50 pm

And Mark Catlin also admits he would also consider moving the showpiece occasion away from Wembley.

The 2020 Leasing.com Trophy final between the Blues and Salford remains in cold storage as a consequence of coronavirus.

March 14 is booked for this season’s Papa John’s Trophy final – with still no date fixed for last year’s.

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Yet with a heavily congested fixture list for the remainder of the campaign, Catlin is willing to hold it off until late July or August.

Pompey’s chief executive told The News: ‘Just to clarify, we don’t know if there’s going to be fans or not for the final, things change pretty rapidly.

‘There’s still a number of dates, ranging from the first available Sunday before the end of the season that fits in – to a potential pre-season opener when maybe supporters could be back.

Pompey won the Checkatrade Trophy against Sunderland at Wembley in March 2019 - they're still waiting for the 2020 final to take place. Picture: Joe Pepler

‘Just because we have refunded fans doesn’t mean we can’t have fans. All I can say is that between ourselves, Salford and the EFL, there is a genuine desire to play it.

‘Pre-season is something we would consider. Really it is also down to the EFL and Salford with contractual issues, but we are very open minded on it.

‘Having a stadium which can safely accommodate the number of fans allowed in is going to be dependent on that time.

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‘With the vaccine, hopefully you can now see an end to this, although how quickly that begins to open up is anyone’s guess.

‘If it was a case of no fans and you’ve got to have it this season – or there’s the possibility of having fans at a pre-season opener – I would rather get fans in.’

Catlin insists ongoing discussions with the Football League and Salford remain positive and constructive.

Yet he concedes alternative thinking may be required in order to fulfil the fixture amid a global pandemic.

He added: ‘We are less hung up on whether that be at Wembley.

‘Players get to play at Wembley once, maybe twice, in their whole careers. Some never get to play there, it’s something special whether with fans or not.

‘Plan A would be to play at Wembley. But if we can’t because it has to fit in with Salford and our seasons, then so be it.

‘I don’t know what the alternative venue could be, I think that’s really speculation.

‘If there are no fans allowed in, does it really matter? Would you want a huge stadium if fans were not allowed in?’

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