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Make Your Case: Cup Glory or Premier League Survival?

With Sunderland one game away from the League Cup final, but still stuck in the relegation mire, Luke Bowley and Nick Holden go head-to-head to debate which we'd prefer: Cup glory, or league safety.

Scott Heavey

Nick Holden - Up For Cup Glory

Face it, what do we actually get out of our continued stay in the Premier League? We now find ourselves continually mired in the quicksand above the relegation zone, spending the whole year desperately totting up how many wins, draws and goals we'll need to give us the chance to stay up and participate in the same miserable charade the next season. Even if we have a "good" year, what can we hope for? The undiluted glory of the tenth place finish? A sapping Europa League campaign trogging between the Arctic Circle, the Russian Steppes and the Portuguese marshes - like a cut-price football fantasy quest? Is that really what you dream of seeing when you first start watching football?

No. You dream of your team winning things. The glory of seeing the clock tick down until victory, the manager sprinting onto the pitch, the captain lifting the famous Competitive Interest Rates Pot. That's what it's all about, and that's what cup runs give you. Some of the best moments of Martin O'Neill's storming early run came in that FA Cup campaign. Likewise, two of the greatest moments of this season have been the thrilling wins over Chelsea and Manchester United in the League Cup. Certainly cheering Sunderland on to score a late, late winner in extra time beats cheering on Arsenal to whack another past Wigan and make sure of our Premier League survival for another year.

A victory, or even a draw, at Old Trafford on Wednesday will see us into a Wembley final. Win or lose it doesn't matter, the brilliance of seeing Sunderland march out to contest a cup final smashes the prospect of another year drab 0-0s with Norwich out of the water. Even if we do get relegated, so what? I hear Ipswich is lovely at this time of the year anyway.

Luke Bowley - All Out For League Safety

Being honest, I drew the short straw for this week's Make Your Case, having to come up with an argument in favour of a position I didn't follow. The Premier League's been largely depressing for Sunderland, and the odd cup final here and there is pretty much the best we can hope for, so I was racking my brains on this one before I stumbled across The Football League Show.

Like most Premier League supporters, the only time I've had any interaction with the programme is during presenter Manish's rude interruptions halfway through Match of the Day, begging us with his eyes to stay with him and watch 'the real most exciting football in the world'. This week's episode alone has '472 goals, 37 red cards, and Andy Keogh, and stay tuned this week as Clem heads to Burnley to eat a Wetherspoons gourmet burger with Sean Dyche'.

In reality, the Football League Show is a reminder of just how depressing the 'Football League' actually is, with its endless list of inconsequential northern market towns and financially ruined former top tier outfits. The Championship may one of the tightest leagues in the world, but it's also desperately lacking in quality, and I'd rather see us at least try to compete with the likes of Eden Hazard and Luis Suarez than thrive against players of such a poor standard as are found in the lower leagues. That Marlon King managed to carve out a successful career in the second tier for so long is testament to its failures, both ethically and it terms of quality.

The standard of football isn't even the worst thing about the show: that honour goes to the aforementioned Clem. Mark Clemmit, resembling a mash up of Walter White and Frank Black out of The Pixies' thumb, and who actively goes around happily being called 'Clem', is sort of an Adrian Chiles for lower leagues, dealing in nauseating sycophancy when it comes to interviews with managers, and attempts at 'chummy banter' that seem more like a cry for acceptance. I'm not sure I could handle watching Gus Poyet pretending to indulge Clem, or worse, actually enjoying it.

No, after watching the full 78 minutes of the Football League show I'm not sure I could deal with another spell in the Championship. Despite our averageness at the Premier League, I'd still feel a lot better staying in it, and clinging to the hope every pre-season that this might be the year we actually do something. If the choice is between a League Cup win and staying up till quarter to one in the morning to watch a 64 second highlights package of us being stuffed by Millwall, and no cup win and Premier League safety, then I'll take the latter.

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