2010/11: The history of the World according to the League Cup
It’s the ugly sister of the domestic Cup competitions, the bastard creation of the then Football League Secretary Alan Hardaker, which sprang to life in 1960/61. The Football League Cup, which has gone through the following incarnations: Milk Cup (1982 to 1986), Littlewoods Challenge Cup (1986 to 1990), Rumbelows Cup (1990 to 1992), Coca-Cola Cup (1992 to 1998), Worthington Cup (1998 to 2003) and Carling Cup (2003 to present) – is back with us this week as the 1st Round ties take place.
After the opening day defeat, Leeds United are back at Elland Road tonight to take on Lincoln City. For older Leeds fans the 1-0 win over Arsenal in 1968 saw the Whites lift a trophy at Wembley for the first time. Younger fans recent memories of a League Cup Final will be less pleasant as in 1996 Leeds capitulated 3-0 to Aston Villa.
As a competition, the League Cup has caused controversy since its inception and in the inaugural season Arsenal, Luton Town, Sheffield Wednesday, Tottenham Hotspur, West Bromwich Albion and Wolves all refused to participate. Various teams dropped in and out until 1967 when the Final was played at Wembley for the first time. The lure of European football for the Cup winners was also added in an attempt to give the competition a higher profile.
Critics still argue that it’s an unnecessary addition to the fixture list (but it’s okay to go on friendly tours during the season?) and clubs from all divisions now use it as a means to play youngsters and fringe players. Now me I’m a bit old fashioned. I want my club to compete to the best of its ability in whatever competition it is playing in. Winning is a habit. Sending out your strongest team will provide the best chance of achieving this. Winning creates in a confident squad, hopefully brings in fans, ensures progress into the next round and so generates more income which keeps the Chairman and the Board smiling.
However, this week some Manager’s will question that logic and justify wholesale team changes on the basis of “I need to look at all my squad” (sorry, isn’t that what you use pre-season friendlies for?) or “we’re not going to win it, so what’s the point” The point is that fans pay good money to support their side. The point is after losing the opening League fixture of the season, it would be good to get a win under the belt and boost the confidence of the players and all those associated with the club. The point is, it can be another game unbeaten. What is to be gained from getting beat after fielding a weakened side by a lower division team?
The competition has also seen clubs reduce prices for the early rounds. Of the 34 ties this week, 24 clubs are offering on General Sale an adult ticket for £15 or less. A special mention for Swansea City, who for their game against Barnet are allowing OAP’s and Under 16’s in for a £1. MK Dons and Norwich City should also be commended for £1 entry for Under 16’s. I’m all for lower prices to encourage youngsters to attend and get the bug of watching their local team, they are the foundation of any clubs future support.
So here’s hoping for good crowd numbers for the ties in Round One, all the way to Wembley!