LOANS and a return to reserve team football at the top sides is a better way to develop talent than the Checkatrade Trophy, according to Michael Appleton.

Clubs in Sky Bet League One and League Two met with the English Football League this week to discuss the future of the competition, which was controversially revamped this season to include invited under 23 sides from clubs with Category One academies.

Three options are on the table and will be voted on next month – continue the new format with some rule changes, revert to the previous structure without invited teams, or scrap it.

Appleton, who was critical of having invited sides from the outset, prefers a return to the 48-team format.

The U’s boss believes the structure he came through as a young player was far better at developing talent.

He said: “I can understand why we would want to give our young players better opportunities to play more competitive games, but for me that’s why we have the loan system.

“I’m also a massive believer in the old reserve teams – that’s how I came through.

“I played with many first team players at Man United who hadn’t played on the Saturday and were then expected to play for the reserves in midweek.

“What I learned alongside them was invaluable.”

U’s chairman Darryl Eales attended the meeting and is also in favour of a return to the previous set-up, but will canvass opinion before voting.

He said: “My plan is once all the papers come out I will circulate them to my board and get their views.

“We’ll also have a meeting with (supporters’ trust) OxVox to get their views so hopefully it will be a debate rather than everyone starting with the answer.

“I think we’re all agreed on the principle.”