The football League Cup has long provoked debate as to it’s worth as a competition. With the FA Cup boasting prestige, romance and worldwide recognition it’s less fashionable sister has often suffered from the cruel label of becoming a ‘Mickey Mouse’ cup.
Even the competitions name lacks the appeal of predecessors such as the ‘Coca-Cola’ Cup or ‘Carling’ Cup. This year, and until 2016, the competition will come under the pseudonym of the ‘Capital One’ Cup, but will any of its one time glamour return?
Many of the so called ‘bigger clubs’ have been criticised for either disrespecting or not taking the competition seriously. Arsene Wenger in particular appears to favour using the campaign as a competitive stage for his wealth of pre-pubescent talent. Other clubs too have been guilty of fielding youth heavy, or second string, teams but are these decisions a blatant lack of respect or a simple exercise in providing valuable experience to those that are struggling to get it?
For top flight managers facing daunting fixture congestion and distraction from the main prize of Premiership winners or Champions League qualifiers the League cup is largely viewed as an insignificant priority.
Compared with the £2m received for winning the FA Cup the £500,000 League cup winning cheque can be seen as loose change. Especially when dwarfed by income available by the Premier League's television money awarded on final league position. But of course there are still incentives. It offers the first opportunity of silverware during the season and a gateway into Europe.
There will be new and reshuffled managers keen to begin a legacy and please expectant fans. The likes of Rodgers, Lambert, Villa-Boas, or Laudrup would love to earn a trophy during their first season at the helm. Success starved sides such as Newcastle, West Ham and QPR would surely welcome the chance to dust off sparsely decorated cabinets.
David Moyes no doubt craves some form of recognition for all the long and impressive work that he has done at Everton. For the ‘big clubs’ it’s a further opportunity to flex muscles and gain bragging rights over rivals. There is a meaningful case that could be put forward for any of the twenty teams that make up the Premiership, not to mention those below it.
Over the next two days five of the top flight is guaranteed to exit in the third round. Some will fancy their chances against teams that they might not necessarily do so if it were a Premier League fixture. But over the last ten years, with the exception of Birmingham in 2011, Tottenham in 2008 and Middlesbrough in 2004, the competition has been dominated by Man United, Chelsea and Liverpool.
Is that the nature of a winning mentality or ‘big clubs’ hiding the fact that this is still a worthwhile competition?
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