Still waiting - how EFL Trophy team selection ruling could devastate Portsmouth and Salford's Wembley plans

Pompey are still waiting to learn whether only those players eligible for last year’s EFL Trophy final can be considered for Saturday’s Wembley trip.

By Neil Allen
Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 9:00 am

As it stands, the Blues and Salford must select from their 2019-20 squads for the year-long delayed fixture.

The Football League are scheduled to meet to thrash out selection criteria for the Papa John’s Trophy final.

However, should they opt not to adapt the rules, the ramifications would force both clubs to only choose players on their books last season.

And that would have a massive impact on Salford, in particular.

Firstly, the League Two club have lost manager Graham Alexander and assistant Chris Lucketti during the competition’s limbo period.

Both were dismissed in October, with former Swindon boss Richie Wellens now at the helm.

Yet, more of a concern, is that just five of the squad involved in their February 2020 semi-final triumph over Newport are presently available.

Marcus Harness and Ronan Curtis celebrate during Pompey's EFL Trophy success over Exeter in February 2020. But Wembley selection could be hinder by regulations. Picture: Joe Pepler

The remainder of that 17-man group have either left the club or are injured.

That leaves Ibou Touray, Oscar Threlkeld, Richie Towell, Brandon Thomas-Asante and James Wilson as the only survivors from that penalty shoot-out success.

Meanwhile, Darron Gibson has a broken leg, while Tom Elliott is also sidelined through injury, with Luke Armstrong on loan at Hartlepool.

The remaining nine players have since left Salford, including goalkeeper Chris Neal, who secured victory by stopping Ryan Inniss’ spot-kick, yet he is now at Fylde.

Other departures among those featuring in that semi-final are Nathan Pond, Craig Conway, Adam Rooney and loanees Cameron Burgess, Jack Baldwin and Jake Jervis.

In addition, Kyle Letheren and Scott Wiseman, unused from the bench, have also gone.

For Pompey, the situation is not as farcical, with Jackett able to select from 12 of the 18-man squad named for that dramatic 3-2 semi-final win over Exeter in February 2020.

Of the team which started, Christian Burgess, Steve Seddon, Ross McCrorie and Cameron McGeehan have waved farewell to Fratton Park.

The goalkeeper that evening, Alex Bass, is sidelined following a recurrence of a fracture in his lower leg.

In addition, Oli Hawkins, one of two substitutes utilised by Jackett on that occasion, is now at Ipswich.

However, still at the disposal of Pompey’s boss are Sean Raggett, Tom Naylor, Ronan Curtis, Ben Close, Marcus Harness and Ellis Harrison, who all started.

Meanwhile, the substitutes against the Grecians were Craig MacGillivray, Lee Brown, James Bolton, Jack Whatmough, Ryan Williams and John Marquis.

Now Pompey and Salford await to discover the Football League’s ruling as the competition threatens to plunge new depths of embarrassment.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

On Saturday, March 13 Pompey will finally get their day at Wembley.

To celebrate the Blues’ place in the rearranged 2020 EFL Trophy Final, The News has launched an offer that gets you 25% off all our Sports subscriptions.

You can choose your perfect Sports subscription here and use the discount code ROADTOWEMBLEY25 to get the latest news from Fratton Park for less. Offer runs until midnight on March 15.