The last week of September is awful under so many aspects – the weather has turned grim but Christmas is still some three months away, summer holidays are nothing but a distant memory and then there’s the third round of the League Cup about to get underway.
One really can’t fathom why people still pretend to be remotely interested into what is effectively English football’s fourth competition, as not even Sky Sports and their ad-hoc manufactured circus could lure fans into watching this tournament.
The League Cup has been renamed after a different sponsor with the same frequency with whom Robbie Keane has changed club throughout his career, to the point where fans still ask themselves if last season Liverpool faced Cardiff in the final of the Carling Cup, rather than Rumbelows Cup. Or perhaps, was the Coca-Cola Cup or maybe…, well you get the picture.
A competition changing its name every few years is not a big enough sin to be so critical about it you might argue and, admittedly, you’d have a point. And a valid one, too.
But what about the appallingly poor standard of football fans – the ones among us that enjoy spending a freezing Tuesday night in a half-empty ground – are treated to at least until the semifinals, or the dismissive attitude big clubs muster towards the competition?
The moment when, without wanting to sound disrespectful, the likes of Wigan and Stoke City decided that they’d rather field their reserves than having a good shot at glory, then the tournament is doomed, sorry.
The incurable romantics out there might argue that the League Cup offers a concrete opportunity of success to teams from the Championship and League One but such teams, with some notable exceptions, aware of having little or no chance of getting past the quarter finals and with a league campaign spread over 46 games know better than to put their players through even more games, thus leaving the door open for injuries and physical strains.
Anyway, the only reason why smaller clubs have a chance to progress beyond the third round lies within the big clubs’ attitude towards the competition, as the likes of United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal have used the League Cup as something between a school yard and recovery clinic over the years.
The big clubs’ position is completely understandable as some of them play 50-odd games a season and prioritising the targets, is essential to harbour any realistic hopes of success.
The FA Cup’s appeal is decreasing almost as quickly as David Cameron’s popularity and with a fixture list looking more and more congested every year, it’s time to bring down the curtain on the League Cup after 41 years.
Yes, it is sad, yes, it is not what it used to be and yes, a pint used to cost 20p. Times change and football is a cynical business, deal with it.