Sunderland head coach warns he is facing the prospect of earning a club fine next week ahead of Manchester United clash
Lee Johnson will field a mix of senior and U23 players when Sunderland kick off their Papa John's Trophy campaign at Lincoln City on Tuesday night, but has warned he is facing the prospect of earning a club fine next week.
The Black Cats have struggled to find a suitable date for their fixture against Manchester United U21s, and the latter have successfully pushed hard to have the game played next Wednesday (October 13th).
That poses a significant issue for Johnson, given that he will have a number of players still away on international duty and those available face a major test away at Gillingham just a couple of days later.
Johnson says his likely selection will benefit neither party, but says the competition as a whole is going to be a good opportunity for academy players to make an impression.
"What's being talked about is the Manchester United U21 game being put in next Wednesday," Johnson said.
"It's something we can do without, and we'd probably have to take the hit [of the fine] and play young players against Man Utf because we will have a lot of players away, depending on who is called up on international duty, and then we have Gillingham on the Saturday.
"It's a bit of a perfect storm in terms of that.
"I see it as a really good opportunity for some of the U23s who have been performing quite well as we have been clear that the league is our priority this season.
"On Tuesday, I think there'll be a bit of a mix of first-team players and U23s.
"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 [Man U] have demanded that it be played on Wednesday 13th, and it looks like it will be, 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."
Denver Hume is expected to play some part on Tuesday night as he makes his first appearance of the season following a hamstring injury.
Hume's last appearance came at the same ground, when he was substituted early in that 2-0 play-off semi final first leg defeat.
Lincoln City boss Michael Appleton has said that he will name a strong side for the game, which kicks off at 7pm.
“I don’t know if Lee is going to put out his B side, his C side or his D side, but we’ll roll out an A team if we can," Appleton said.
The Imps have already played two group games in the competition, beating Bradford City 3-1 and Man Utd U21s 3-2.