The League Cup should be no afterthought for 'big' clubs
21:00 GMT, 23 September 2012
21:00 GMT, 23 September 2012
Everton have never won the League Cup. It is a fact to make Goodison Park think. They reached the final twice – in 1977 and 1984 – but they lost, first to Aston Villa, then Liverpool.
Everton have won the league title and the FA Cup of course, but the last time Goodison held one of English football’s three major domestic trophies was 1995. That was the FA Cup and Joe Royle was Everton manager. Current boss David Moyes was a Preston North End centre half.
The next League Cup final will be almost 18 years on from Everton’s last trophy, therefore, and that is too long a wait.
Distant memory: Everton last won a trophy back in 1995
We know all about the modern, mitigating factors caused by the Premier League’s monopolising money, with Chelsea and Manchester City denying others opportunity as they buy theirs. Even so, since the turn of the century, Leicester City, Blackburn Rovers, Middlesbrough and Birmingham City have won the League Cup. Cardiff City were pretty close last season.
Everton have not even made the final in that period, but they are not alone among the top-division clubs for whom the League Cup should be a silver priority.
These are the clubs that cannot win the Premier League, as it is financially skewed. They can win the FA Cup, but since Everton’s ’95 victory, 16 of the 17 FA Cup winners have been either Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, City or Liverpool.
On the other occasion Portsmouth won – and how that looks a bought trophy now.
So if the league title is a non-starter and the FA Cup a hope, then the League Cup should be of significant interest to the likes of Everton. On Tuesday night, Moyes’ confident team arrive at Elland Road. The Leeds United manager Neil Warnock usually has other priorities when it comes to the competition. An Everton win takes them into the last 16. A home draw, or a good draw, then and it is the quarter-finals.
Decision time: Moyes must decided whether to field a strong team on Tuesday night
In total it is five games to Wembley, four for the teams in Europe.
Moyes is talking about Everton making the Champions League places but that’s a 38-game struggle. Five games to Wembley in the League Cup, when others are involved in Europe, that is an opportunity.
It does not just apply to Everton. Come the final on February 24 it will be 17 years since Aston Villa won a trophy, it will be 40 years since Sunderland’s last triumph, the 1973 FA Cup.
Like Everton, Sunderland are away at lower opposition – MK Dons – and the fans are not travelling from Wearside to see them lose, as they did in the second round at Brighton last season. Realistically, what else are Sunderland going to win The same can be said of West Brom, who won the League Cup in 1966 and reached the final in ’67 and ’70. This feels like a consolidated club with a squad of accumulated strength that has started the season well – though Fulham and Stoke are the same and they’re already out.
On Wednesday night West Brom host Liverpool (the holders) having already beaten them 3-0 at The Hawthorns a month ago.
You cannot imagine that this season, this competition is top of the Anfield agenda.
Priority: Liverpool will be looking to retain the League Cup they won in February
And QPR They won the League Cup in 1967 as a Third Division team so it should not be beyond a squad purchased at great expense over the past 18 months to get past Reading at Loftus Road on Wednesday. Again: what else are QPR going to win Reading have other priorities.
The epic wait in domestic football amongst clubs considered ‘big’ belongs to Newcastle United. They have never won the League Cup either. They reached the final under Gordon Lee in 1976 but lost to Manchester City.
Newcastle’s last major domestic trophy remains the 1955 FA Cup. 1955.
Being drawn away at Manchester United does not make this Wednesday a promising beginning to this season’s League Cup for Newcastle. But where does the competition figure in the Old Trafford priority list
There is another club who have not won a trophy for a while. By February, it will be eight years.
On Wednesday Arsenal are at home to Coventry City.
Drought: Arsenal have not won a trophy since 2005
Birmingham feeling blue
Arsenal fans thinking ‘Well, anyone can beat Coventry’ could do with speaking to their counterparts at Birmingham City.
Those Blues who experienced the agony of Saturday’s 5-0 home defeat by Barnsley were given a foretaste of that embarrassment in the last round of the League Cup, when Birmingham lost 3-2 at Coventry.
It is just over 18 months since Birmingham defeated Arsenal 2-1 in the League Cup final, Obafemi Martins scoring the late winner. Martins and many others left once City were relegated and on Saturday, of the starting XI against Arsenal, only Keith Fahey started against Barnsley.
The pace of change is rapid: Robin van Persie, Alex Song, Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri all started that final for Arsenal.
By the way…
Ravel Morrison, once the next big thing at Manchester United, did not even make it off the Birmingham bench on Saturday.