In Celebration of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy

As attention in the national media is increasingly dragged towards the top flight and the Champions League, domestic cup competitions seem to be seen as an afterthought. Already this season, I have felt the need to write a vehement defence of both the FA Cup and the League Cup. Charlie Johnson goes one step further…

Make a list of all the trophies that you can win in English football with the most prestigious at the top and you can be certain that the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy will come pretty close to the bottom. Along with, perhaps, the North East Derbyshire schools with low footballing ability contest, the Women’s Institute five-a-side trophy and, of course, the Carling Cup. However, every season that Huddersfield Town languish in League One, it is always second on my wish list for a forthcoming season ahead of an FA Cup run or winning Best Family Club at the Football League Awards.

For me, winning the trophy symbolises growth at your club. A determination to win every game. Proof that you can compete with any of the teams at your level and keep your nerve into the far reaches of a cup competition. For the teams of the lower divisions, so often ignored during the season by the mainstream media – apart from on FA Cup third round day when lower league footballers are spoken of as if they walk around on all fours and have little to no experience of kicking a football – it is a chance to shine, an opportunity to enter a competition you actually have a chance of winning.

Despite this, very few teams seem to take it very seriously in the early stages, and fans hardly turn up in their thousands with most only going out of a sense of blind loyalty or because the club have given away tickets for free with a copy of the Beano. However, there won’t have been a Huddersfield Town fan who wasn’t on the edge of their seat when Alan Lee scored the third goal in the second leg against Carlisle, who had destroyed us 4-0 in the first. With the most unlikely comeback on the cards, I for one was sat with all fingers crossed hoping for us to complete the miracle turnaround.

This game took place in a competition that many will consider to be about as important as a pre-season friendly. At semi-final stage, though, it is no longer an inconvenience but an actual shot at a trip to Wembley. Add to that a chance to contribute some silverware to a trophy cabinet that has hardly been bothered since the 1920’s, and it was little wonder we were all hoping for that rarest of beasts, the never-spotted Alan Lee hat-trick.

Alas it wasn’t to be and Carlisle’s blushes were spared. I was delighted to see them win the trophy after so often being the also-rans of the competition, and especially after they were thrashed by Southampton in the final last year. It is a trophy that gains greater significance at final stage, after teams have lumbered through the first few rounds, fielding players that not even their agents have heard of. When it reaches the final, it is a true chance to put your team on the map and show the football world that your side are on the up.

A look at the winners of the trophy in recent years will verify this viewpoint, with Premier League teams like Stoke, Blackpool and Wigan all winning the JPT in the last decade and Swansea and Southampton also having their names on the cup. 40,000 attended Wembley for the final, an impressive statistic considering the relative size of both clubs, and although nothing compared to the 70,000+ who saw Southampton win the trophy last year, it is still an incredible turnout for one of football’s lesser competitions.

It seems that everything about the contest is a little low-rent, particularly the name of the competition. I say this with all due respect to Johnstone’s Paint and its predecessors LDV Vans and Auto Windscreens, although I don’t suppose it’s any worse than being named after an awful lager or being sponsored by a morally corrupt bank.

The Johnstone’s Paint Trophy is a competition that teams should genuinely go all out to win, as a day out at Wembley and a chance to win some silverware is ultimately what football in this country is all about. Perhaps most significantly, it cannot be won by a Premier League club. The more glory that lower league clubs can achieve, the better.

The Seventy Two
The Seventy Two published an outstanding series of articles about the Football League between 2010-12 and was the brainchild of Leicester City fan, David Bevan. As well as collaborating with The Two Unfortunates on the Football League Blog Network and a mammoth 2011-12 season preview, the site featured a host of leading bloggers and David was rewarded with a nomination in the 2011 Football Supporters’ Federation awards. Latterly, he was joined as co-editor by Joe Harrison and TTU is happy to present this archive of the site’s output.


  1. Tim Vickerman
    April 4, 2011

    You mean there’s more to football than grimly battling away, playing joyless ‘football’, selling any player at the first sign of potential and giving up entirely on league games against the ‘big clubs’ or cup ties all in order to finish 17th in the Premier League and do it all over again? My God!

    As a fellow Town fan, I can testify to the effect a good run in the tournament and a day out at Wembley can have on a club’s performance as happened in 94. Sure, the ‘End of an Era’ at Leeds Road and the move to the new stadium contributed equally but it was a cumulative effect.

    • Graham Minshaw
      April 4, 2011

      Of course our lads hanging on in this years Northern Final was seen as a fitting, if belated pay back for the 1994 Northern final where the boot was on the other foot. A second leg that denied Carlisle their potentially first ever Wembley appearance, but it must be said was livened up by what is for me, the best goal I have ever seen- Joe Joyce’s screamer from about 200 yards that almost burst the Town net.

      As a Carlisle fan I obviously enjoy this competition and have never understood why the FA cup generates interest for lower league clubs when all they play for is the inevitable tonking against the giants.(and a shed load of money I will concede) At lease entry into the FLT gives teams a chance of actually winning a cup, paint pot or shield.


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