Retirement beckons for doddery League Cup

September 24, 2008

Crewe score against Liverpool’s second XI

The League Cup came through a difficult birth and a forgettable youth to enjoy a long, proud middle age but the time has come for this doddery old relative to be shuffled off into retirement.

When it was launched in the early 1960s the new, midweek competition was pretty much ignored by the big clubs, as evidenced by Rotherham and Rochdale reaching the first two finals.

In 1966/67 the format was changed, the final switching from a two-legged affair to a one-off Wembley showcase, and with the subsequent additional carrot of a place in Europe for the winners, it eventually became a serious tournament.

Throughout the 1970s, 80s and early 90s a League Cup winners’ medal was something worth having and the idea of Liverpool, who won it four times in a row from 1981 while still managing to compete and win in Europe, fielding a weakened team in the competition would have been preposterous.

However, the arrival of the Premier and Champions Leagues and the associated money, meant it quickly lost its appeal for most of the top-flight clubs.

Current Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez changed all 11 players from the team who drew with Stoke in the league last weekend for Tuesday’s home game against Crewe, while Manchester United and Arsenal were not far behind.

Even the likes of Sunderland, Fulham and Stoke (for whom the League Cup provided their only major silverware in 1972) felt able to put out weak teams despite the fact that it is the only trophy they now have a realistic chance of winning.

It’s all very nice for Arsenal to field a side with an average age of 19, especially when they hammer Sheffield United 6-0 with a performance the envy of most clubs’ first teams, but it still undermines the credibility of the competition and makes the award of a UEFA Cup place for its winners laughable.

With the FA Cup showing signs of a similar decline, surely the time has come to cut off a limb to save the body and give up on England’s “third competition”.

I don’t hear too many people demanding a return of the European Cup Winners’ Cup.

PHOTO: Crewe Alexander’s Michael O’Connor scores against Liverpool during their League Cup match at Anfield, September 23, 2008. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis

5 comments

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Sanity at last! Only took 40years. Most could see it after 1. I dont even look at the LC results and it certainly devalues the FA cup.
Good Riddance and all who sail in her

steve

Posted by steve melbourne | Report as abusive

Well, the nearly 60,000 in the Emirates yesterday will disagree with you – they saw a thrilling match and a wonderful glimpse at the future of Arsenal.

Some of the most memorable Arsenal performances in recent years were thanks to the Arsenal kids in the League Cup – the classic 6-3 destruction of Liverpool at Anfield and some classic encounter with Spurs (including, unfortunately, a humiliting 5-1 defeat at White Hart Lane – which, btw, is one of Tottenham’s few proud moments in their long-suffering recent history).

Yes, it’s a niche cup, it’s not the big stage – but as long as you have teams like the Arsenal kids in it, it’s always exciting and good value for money!

Posted by alex | Report as abusive

I think clubs outside the beig four will continue to lose fans if they target only “survival”. how boring is it to begin each season with the hope that your team might finish mid-table and, once a decade, reach the fa cup quarter-finals? the league cup is an embarrassment and should be canned and the fa should do all it can to ensure the survival of the fa cup

I have to agree with you mitch, it is cleary past its sell by date if even Stoke are fielding a weakened team. However, the teams in the lower leagues who get a tidy sum in gate receipts from playing the likes of tottenham wont want to see the back of it. I assume a majority at least of the 92 clubs have to vote to axe it and to the rochdales and rotherhams, a good draw equals a bit of money to buy a new centre half.

Posted by Mark Meadows | Report as abusive

[...] Pipe and slippers time for the Carling Cup? (Reuters Soccer Blog) [...]

[...] September, Mitch Phillips argued here that the League Cup should be shuffled off into retirement. Who could argue for prolonging the life of this tired, unwanted “third competition”? [...]

I am afraid, Mitch, that I have to disagree with you on this one, and instead side with Joe Brock’s article on the benefits of the Carling Cup. It is of course true that the big teams take less of an interest in the Carling Cup, though not perhaps to the extent that you suggest, given that Chelsea’s team by the end of their game against Burnley included Drogba, Malouda and Lampard, but far from devaluing the competition, this in fact heightens the interest for many fans. In the first place, it provides them with the opportunity to see exciting new players, many of them English, who may well be in Arsenal and Manchester United teams of the future, (Cesc Fabregas’ career at Arsenal began in a Carling cup fixture against Rotherham). It is also a chance for managers of such teams to blood their young talent, something that is essential when injuries hit, when in high profile matches they simply cannot afford to do so. Most importantly however, the fact that the big clubs field “weaker” sides means that the carling cup is an opportunity for lesser teams. It is not as though every fan in this country is a fan of one of the “big four” and those who aren’t may be quite glad to see someone else win a competition for a change. Tottenham’s delight at winning their first major trophy for over 50 years was plain to see last season, and most of the country was enthralled by what happened in the fa cup last year, when all the big teams were knocked out by the semi finals, and the whole point is that in the carling cup, if not in the fa cup, something like that could happen again.

Posted by Lozza | Report as abusive

[...] It might be a bold suggestion in the current economic climate – and one which the Premier League would never accept – but never mind the 39th fixture, let’s cut the top flight down to 18 teams and why not scrap the League Cup while we’re at it. [...]