Pep’s not mad about The Carabao Cup, in fact he thinks it’s “a waste of energy”, which is a really good pun given that the competition’s sponsors are an energy drink company. I don't think he meant it like that, but still, it’s a good’un.
Jose’s not mad about it either:
If you ask me 'could English football survive or be even be better without this competition?'
And, I have to say, I don’t disagree with them. It was always the poor relation to the FA Cup played at the wrong end of the season, and compared to its more established counterpart it was always the new kid on the block, being established in 1960 whereas the FA Cup has been around since 1871. However, crucially the FA Cup has always retained its title, whereas the League Cup has been pimped around like some third rate wh*re.
It started off as the Football League Cup – and had it had kept the name, I think it would have promoted continuity, longevity, integrity, and today it may well have had a different image. But no, cometh the eighties, cometh the confusion when the lure of sponsorship turned the heads of the footballing powers and it became ‘The Milk Cup’ - only for a year though, then it went back to its original name.
This was back in 1986 and I distinctly remembering mentally switching off at that point and thinking the buggers didn’t have a clue. But they weren’t finished there. For the next three years it became ‘The Littlewoods Challenge Cup’, apart from a year in the middle when it went back to being ‘The League Cup’ again.
Followed by ‘The Rumbelows Cup’, ‘Coca Cola Cup’, ‘Worthington Cup’, ‘Carling Cup’, ‘Capital One Cup’, ‘EFL Cup’ and currently ‘The Carabao Cup’.
Hell’s teeth, is it any wonder the thing has an identity crisis? What’s the point of winning a competition that people won’t have heard of in two years time?
Pep seems to agree:
If you have to play the competition you have to play the competition, but it is a title that when you win it is okay, but after that people don't give too much credit.
You could argue that the big clubs should expect to play two games a week, and it doesn’t matter if the mid-week game is Champions League or the Mickey Mouse Cup, but again, I think they have a point. The rewards of winning the Cup are negligible - £100,000 prize money and a Europa League berth – it’s really not worth the big four pulling on a tracksuit for that kind of reward.
Compared to the Premier or Champions League it’s derisory, so why take the risk? Business is business, and if the people who run the Cup can’t settle on a bloody name for it, why should anyone else bother with it?
Well, taking part is compulsory, and it’s popular with ‘weaker’ teams who sense a Wembley Final and a jaunt in Europe, so why not give any team qualified for either the Champions or Europa League discretion not to enter? That way the big clubs could keep their squads fresh for European matches and it would increase the chances of other teams qualifying for Europe?
Nice idea, except what was recently the ‘English Football League Cup’ is now sponsored by a south-east Asian sugary drink, and I don’t think the intended market for the current sponsor would be too happy with the absence of both Manchester teams, Chelsea, Spurs and Liverpool from their competition.
So there you have it. A tournament which is of little interest to the teams most likely to win it, being run mainly for revenue purposes by the Football League and of decreasing interest to the public at large. In a perfect world, the League would stop all sponsorship, rename it ‘The League Cup’, close it’s doors to clubs qualified for Europe for the present season, and I think it could have wings. But then again, it’s not a perfect world is it?
I’ve never been one for stats. Football lends itself to stats in the same way that Kim Jong-un lends himself to strange black suits, and fair enough, some people thrive on it. For me though the score and the position in the table is about enough. Every now and again, however, stats are thrown up that really stick in the mind – like the one about Manchester City, after five games already having scored more goals than Derby County did in the entire 2007-8 season (20).
Or the fact that Palace with no wins and no goals after six games is not just the worst start in Premier League history, it’s the worst start of any European major league and the worst start of any team ever. And this is good why? Well, because it probably eradicates one of our less favourable records (as did Derby – thanks lads), and because I know a couple of Palace supporters, and facing them across a meeting room is going to be a lot more pleasant for the foreseeable future.
But it’s Harry Kane that the stats are raving about, and they’re being used to propel him in to the stratospheric company of Messi and Ronaldo, who’s own figures are off the chart. And this is where I think you have to question the validity and interpretation of stats. Because you watch a Messi game or a Ronaldo game and you know you’re in the company of greatness. You watch a Harry Kane match and you know you’ve seen a striker on form.
I think Kane is a good striker who’s hitting his peak at the moment, but he doesn’t inspire me and I think that’s where the difference lies. He’s good at his job, but Ronaldo and Messi aren’t even marked on the same scale. Kane takes his chances very well, but I’ve never seen him take a game by the scruff of the neck and single-handedly change it’s course in the way that Keane or Beckham could, or any of a dozen other players could have over the years, let alone Messi or Ronaldo.
Stats have their purpose, but I’d rather rely on my gut feeling to be honest.
Which is probably why I don’t know an awful lot about football, and to confirm it, I came to the following conclusion having watched this weekend’s Premier League fixtures.
Everton are a better team without Wayne Rooney, and Swansea are going to be relegated because Paul Clement isn’t good enough, despite everything. However, I do think Hodgson will keep Palace up, and that David Wagner of Huddersfield is a dead ringer for Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead. People pay good money for stuff like this...