League Cup focus, part 1. Love it…

I have never understood people that criticise the League Cup, describing it as a meaningless and boring occasion. It is football we’re talking about here, not an interview with Piers Morgan.

Personally, I love the League Cup, I always have because I love any competition that offers the opportunity of cross-town rivals contesting a two-legged semi-final under the floodlights on a cold winter night.

For a start, the competition offers clubs another shot at glory during the season, a genuine opportunity for smaller clubs – yes, I hate the term too, but it helps to draw a line – to have something to showcase in their trophy cabinets, as Leicester City, Norwich City, Luton Town, QPR and Oxford United would be happy to testify.

At the same time, the League Cup is taken rather seriously by the big boys when one considers that, in the last eight seasons, Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool and Manchester United have won the trophy a combined seven times.

Many of its detractors point the finger at managers fielding under strength teams in the early rounds, but isn’t it fantastic to have the opportunity to give youngsters the chance of getting a few games under their belts – and not during a meaningless pre-season tour, but in a competitive match environment where a place at Wembley is ultimately at risk?

Ah, yes, Wembley. While it’s been well documented that the new stadium in North West London doesn’t quite possess the same charm and aura that its predecessor, I still enjoy the thought of walking down Wembley Way on a gloomy and cold February afternoon -name me another highlight of February? (Anyone who says Valentine’s Day can stop reading now).

That, in a nutshell, is why this competition is so special. You wouldn’t normally associate football and a final with cold weather and sub-zero temperatures, but the League Cup offers the opportunity of lifting a trophy at a time of the year when fans are either still cursing the lack of reinforcements in the January transfer window or wondering how they’ll maintain their slender lead at the top of the table – for me it is a welcome distraction during the long and horrible winter months.

As for those that moan ‘the fixture list already too congested’, do me a favour. I like to feast on football for 10 months a year because I love it, I want to consume as much football as possible at all times, which real football fan wouldn’t? Without the League Cup the football menu would be the equivalent of eating at a flashy restaurant – small portions never satisfy anyone.

Much like Coronation Street, the weather and the Beeb the League Cup is one of those British entities we love to hate, but one that would be sadly missed if it were gone. Stop moaning and start supporting, the League Cup is where it’s at!

 

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