Photo: Niall Ennis scores the winner against Crystal Palace in the final PJT group match in October
Next Wednesday (21st December) sees Argyle take on AFC Wimbledon in the rearranged Papa Johns Trophy Round of 16 match. Here’s why you should get along to Home Park for this one, writes Colin Bradbury.
In case people have forgotten, the Papa Johns Trophy (PJT for short) is a midweek knockout cup competition which includes all 48 Clubs from EFL League One and League Two, plus 16 invited Category One Academy sides from Premier League and Championship clubs.
Many Argyle fans view the PJT as, at best, an irrelevance or, at worst a distraction from the important business of chasing promotion. One reason for that is the club’s poor record in the competition in recent years – Argyle have never made it beyond the group stages since the competition emerged in its current form in 2016. With that background, it’s not surprising that the PJT has failed to make much of an impact on the Green Army’s collective consciousness.
Bigging-up the PJT isn’t a popular position. A competition with the UK’s fourth largest pizza delivery company as title sponsor is hardly the height of glamour and, for the group games at least, crowds tend to be sparse (averaging just over 1,900 for Argyle’s first four games in this season’s competition).
But here are seven reasons why the PJT is worth your attention, and why the Green Army should seriously consider getting down to Home Park next Wednesday for some cup knockout action.
Time to shine
Most obviously, this is the first time since 2016 that Argyle have reached the knock-out phases. For that reason alone, the Greens deserve support. This is the stage of the competition where things start to get interesting.
The reward for reaching the PJT final is a trip to Wembley next March, which means that Argyle are three wins away from an appearance at the Home of Football. What’s not to like? And considering that the competition starts with a total of 64 clubs, winning the PJT is a genuinely meaningful achievement.
Up for the Cup
The Greens are already out of the FA Cup and Carabao Cup, which means that the ‘distraction’ argument is less relevant this season. And in any case, Argyle are unlikely to be hoisting either of the big two cup trophies anytime soon, meaning that the PJT represents the club’s best chance of winning silverware in a cup competition for the foreseeable future.
Show me the money!
The PJT provides a meaningful boost for club finances. All teams get a £20,000 participation fee, plus £10,000 for each win in the group stage (and £5,000 for a draw) with the overall Trophy winners walking away with a cheque for £260,000. For a League One club, that sort of cash should not be dismissed lightly.
Fountain of Youth
Maybe the biggest PJT plus is as a showcase for Argyle’s Academy talent. Already this season, Will Jenkins Davies and Oscar Halls (who bagged a goal apiece against Swindon Town in the group phase), Freddie Issaka, Finley Craske and Jack Endacott have featured in the competition. And 17-year-old Caleb Roberts became the Pilgrims’ fifth-youngest competitive scorer with his winner against Charlton Athletic in the first knockout match two weeks ag. Want a glimpse of the future of Argyle? The PJT is the place to be.
The PJT is also a chance for Argyle’s young players to test themselves against Premiership opposition (ok, their Academies). Argyle have already faced (and beaten) the Crystal Palace U21s, and the Manchester United, Chelsea and Everton U21s are all still in the forthcoming Round-of-16. A draw against any of those sides would be an early career highlight for Argyle’s youngsters.
Tickets are just £4 for Under-18s and free for Under-12s, so this is a perfect opportunity for an affordable family trip to Home Park (and maybe a first ever Argyle experience for a younger family member?)
We will be at Home Park to cover the game – you should be there too!
Feature image: Colin Bradbury / Cornwall Sports Media