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The Pint Pot Cup
By: Rob Sedgwick
THE Johnstone Paint Trophy is a marvellous competition in my view, not least because it throws up a completely different final (and semis, and quarters) every year. There have been some cracking games in it over the years, not least last year's final between Scunny and Luton.
I might be biased because we have been to the final twice and won it once, but I'd rather watch the JPT final any day than endless fixtures between the Big Four which is what we tend to get in the other competitions, including the so-called Champions League.
People may sneer at the JPT because it's always been associated with rather unglamorous sponsors but it's actually a pretty straightforward competition to explain - purely open to the bottom two divisions in the Football League, and divided into Northern and Southern halves. If you lose you're out, that's it, a true cup competition. There's no group phase, no away goals, not even extra time if it's a draw - straight to pens.
The FA Cup and League Cup with their staggered, seeded draws are much more complex competitions. The European competitions are bizarre - the Champions League (which is really a cup) contains fewer champions than it does non-champions by the time it gets to the group stages (if not before), and I suspect few people understand the qualifying rounds. So both words in its title are incorrect! The Europa Cup as it is called now is beneath contempt, a ragbag of second rate teams from across the continent stringing out a poor man's Champions League. It seems to take as long to get eliminated from it as it does in Strictly Come Dancing.
The JPT is the only competition that I know where a club who enters in the first round is guaranteed to win (although I grant that this year you can receive a bye in the first round).
Every football club is continuous a soap opera. Other than the teams we follow the stories and plot lines associated with those clubs at the top of the game are generally familiar to most football fans. But there are equally fascinating stories going on at football clubs up and down the land, and it's nice for the smaller clubs to get the limelight sometimes.
The best thing of all is the final day, and the week or two leading up to it. Everyone who wants to go can go, even your mates and mates of mates and girlfriends of mates of mates who don't even know what colours Town wear. There are no "corporate" fans there, it's a great day out, you get to see every top the team have ever worn, and it's better to watch on TV for fans of the 46 clubs who aren't going than anything else in the football calendar.
The games tend to be much more exciting then the play-offs as well, where the prize is everything and the day out nothing. For every player involved in the JPT finals on both sides it must be one of the most memorable days of their careers, and I bet their medals are treasured far more than those belonging to players from the Big Four.
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