Everton: Is The League Cup Worth Taking Seriously?
Is the League Cup (or the Capital One Cup as all the cool kids are calling it nowadays) a trophy worth winning?
I suppose the answer to that depends upon where you see your team in the pecking order of the football pyramid. I doubt many Manchester City fans will wake up this morning in a state of abject depression because of their team’s early exit from the competition. For them, and other ‘big guns’ the League Cup is a distraction from the main business of the Premiership and the Champions League.
It’s a measure of just how much the game has changed over the past twenty years that this competition is now held in such low regard by a certain clique of teams, to the point where if they were offered the choice of finishing fourth with no silverware or seventh with the League Cup, they would always choose the former.
The big clubs only really start to give it their attention if they find themselves in the latter stages of the competition
While it never possessed the glamour and mystique of the FA, for many years the League Cup (or the former Milk Cup as none of the cool kids are now calling it) remained a trophy worth competing for. But that’s no longer the case.
Today, the big clubs only really start to give it their attention if they find themselves in the latter stages of the competition. It’s only at this point that reserve team players stop getting a look-in, pushed out in favour of more regular first-team names.
But even at these latter stages, you still get the sense that the competition is not viewed with the same hunger as it once was. And if you want proof of that then look at the attitude of last year’s victors, Liverpool. Club and fans alike considered their most recent campaign an abject failure, despite the fact that they won the League Cup. Twenty years ago, I doubt that a manager such as Dalglish would have lost his job if he’d brought home that same trophy, regardless of a disappointing league performance.
With little serious opposition from teams above us, it’s arguably never been easier to progress in this competition
But beyond this Premier League elite (and Liverpool), how should the rest of us view this competition; should we see it as an unnecessary drain on resources or our one realistic chance of claiming a piece of domestic silverware?
I can only speak from an Evertonian’s perspective and I have mixed feelings regarding our early exit at the hands of no-so-super-Leeds last night.
On the one hand, it’s been a very long time since anything new and shiny was placed in the Everton trophy cabinet. What began as a dry spell has turned into a drought and it’s been seventeen years since we last brought home a piece of silverware.
Added to this is the sense of frustration that arises from the fact that we’ve never won the League Cup (or the Rumbelows Cup as no-one has ever really called it). We’ve come very close on a couple of occasions, but not close enough. For a club with Everton’s tradition and history that strikes me a significant omission. And it’s one that has probably never been more straightforward to correct. With little serious opposition from teams above us, it’s arguably never been easier to progress in this competition. It’s exactly the kind of trophy that lesser Premier League luminaries, like Everton, Newcastle, Fulham and Liverpool should be in with a shot of winning every season.
When Moyes opted to give a start to both Francisco Junior and Magaye Gueye, our stand in players seem to be pretty mediocre
And should we ever do so, not only would we gain a much needed bit of silverware but the club would also be guaranteed entry into the Europe. Granted, it’s the Europa League, which is essentially the Champions League’s shorter, slightly uglier and generally underwhelming little brother, but even this is better than no European football at all.
However, from another, less-League-Cup-friendly perspective, the competition can indeed be seen as a drain. At the moment, Everton don’t have the largest of squads and the likelihood is that the more games we play then the more chance there is of picking up injuries. This would probably be bearable if the reserve players we did have were any good. But, as last night revealed, when Moyes opted to give a start to both Francisco Junior and Magaye Gueye, our stand in players seem to be pretty mediocre.
What’s more, do we need this distraction when for the first time in several seasons Everton appear to have a set of regular players who together could realistically push for a top-four finish? Over the coming months we have games against a raft of teams who we should be able to beat, meaning that there is no reason why our flying start to the season can’t continue. This is where the team should be focusing their attention, rather than on cup ties against the likes of Swindon or Bradford.
That’s the main problem with the League Cup today. So many supporters are indifferent to it because the Premiership dominates our attention
Ultimately, I’m inclined to come down in favour of the second, less-League-Cup-friendly perspective. I went to sleep last night pretty unmoved by Everton’s defeat. It’s never nice to lose and it’s also fairly humiliating to be beaten by a club from a lower league but I found it hard to really care. In terms of disappointment, I was far more upset at our defeat at the hands of West Brom in the league last a few weeks ago than I was by our early exit last night, largely because the Premiership matters so much more.
And that’s the main problem with the League Cup today. So many supporters are indifferent to it because the Premiership dominates our attention. Even a supporter such as me, someone who follows a club in dire need of domestic silverware can barely be arsed to care.
When you take into account the fact that the same trend has also taken the shine off the once majestic FA Cup then you can see that the League Cup never really stood a chance. It always played second fiddle to the FA. It’s not unreasonable therefore to speculate that as our collective attention towards domestic cups begins to further wane in the future, that there might come a point when one of them is consigned to the ‘dustbin of history’ to join the likes of the Simod Cup, the Wantney Cup and the Texaco Cup. And I’d bet pretty much everything I have on it not being the FA going the way of the Dodo.
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