Portsmouth rivals Sunderland prepared to accept fine for forthcoming Papa John's Trophy team selection decision

Lee Johnson has admitted Sunderland are prepared to take a financial hit for failing to comply with EFL rules for the Papa John’s Trophy.

Tuesday, 5th October 2021, 12:30 pm

The Black Cats are set to face Manchester United’s under-21s in the competition on October 13 – the day after Pompey’s fixture against Sutton United in the Trophy.

It’s been reported that the date – which is 72 hours ahead of the Wearsiders’ League One trip to Gillingham – was demanded by the Red Devils.

Rules state that league clubs must field at least four 'qualifying outfielders' in each fixture to preserve the competition’s integrity.

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'Qualifying outfielders' are deemed as players who started the previous first-team game or will who start the next first-team match; players who have made at least 40 senior career appearances; players on loan from Premier League clubs; or players who are among the 10 highest first-team appearance-makers that season.

But with six Sunderland players currently on international duty until next week and Johnson wanting to give some of his under-23s a run-out ahead of their Gills meeting, he’s at odds with the EFL on the matter.

The Black Cats manager called the rules ‘ridiculous’, claiming the powers that be need to look at the bigger picture.

Johnson told Chonicle Live: ‘It's something we can do without (the Manchester United under-21 fixture), and we'd probably have to take the hit (fine) and play young players against because we will have a lot of players away, depending on who is called up on international duty.

Sunderland manager Lee Johnson Picture: Lewis Storey/Getty Images

‘It's a bit of a perfect storm in terms of that.

‘I see it as a really good opportunity for some of the under-23s who have been performing quite well.

‘You know the rules, you get fined if you don't play four (qualifying players) - which is ridiculous, I think.

‘Manchester United and the Premier League fund the competition and therefore they tend to get preferential treatment, which is crazy because we are the ones with all the games.

‘They have demanded that it be played on Wednesday (October)13th, so we may potentially have to pay the fine which doesn't seem fair to me.

‘At the end of the day, the big picture is Gareth Southgate having more players to select from, and if you can't expose players and give young players a chance in games like that, it has a negative effect.’

Sunderland – who lost 4-0 at Fratton Park on Saturday – begin the defence of the Papa John’s Trophy crown they secured last season with a trip to Lincoln tonight.

Like Pompey’s League One home game against Cheltenham, their home fixtures against Oxford this weekend will be rescheduled because of international call-ups.

The Blues’ next game in the Papa John’s Trophy is against Sutton on Tuesday, October 12.

Danny Cowley’s side’s first game in the competition was a 5-3 defeat away to AFC Wimbledon.