The sixteen Third Round ties this week will feature six all Premier League pairings. However, my bet is that none of the teams lining up on Tuesday and Wednesday this week will resemble those that take the field when the respective fixtures take place in the League. For instance at White Hart Lane, the fixture might be better titled as Spurs Reserves v Arsenal Youth. At the Britannia Stadium, tickets are available at £12, testament to the lack of drawing power of Fulham and a major hint at the selection policy of Tony Pulis for his Stoke line-up.
At Stamford Bridge, ticket prices for the League Cup have been slashed to £20 and Chelsea have been rewarded with a full-house. Newcastle will be concerned about the Blues fire power and the number of goals visiting teams have conceded at The Bridge this season, but may also be questioning that if reduced ticket prices are de rigueur, will post match meal prices also be reduced after Blackpool passed on the £15.50 plus VAT a head, lasagne offered to them after Sunday’s League fixture?
There are possible banana skins fixtures for Everton (away at Brentford), Liverpool (home to Northampton), Manchester United (away at Scunthorpe) and Wolves (home to Notts County). However, these days it is less likely as even teams outside the top flight, look to “focus” on the League. Presumably The Iron will care more about ensuring their Championship status rather than victory over Manchester United?
Is it time the competition was discarded or can it be saved? As a passing thought, what about making it a joint League Cup with teams from Scotland? It may for a couple of seasons create a novelty value around the competition (and some nervous police forces both here and North of the border), but little sustainable interest in the long-term. The reality is that in England clubs are only interested in money and that is generated through participation in the Premier League and the Champions League. Both the FA Cup and League Cup have been reduced to “nice to haves”, mere trinkets, because of their lack of financial clout.
Clubs strive to finish in the Champions League places at all cost. It is a curious fact that teams will battle all season to finish in a European spot, but then some of those who earn Europa League places, proceed in the following season to treat the competition with disdain.
Regrettably cash is king….will the romance of the Cup ever live again?