Talking Point: League Cup leading the way?
ONE of the great League Cup stories has been told this season with League Two Bradford City reaching the final and due to find out tonight (Wednesday) whether they will take on Chelsea or Swansea City.
The romantic in all of us surely wants Michael Laudrup`s Swans to progress to Wembley next month; a side which plays tremendous football, with delightful footballers and have themselves proved something of a breath of fresh air once again this term under the likable Dane.
All this begs the question - is the League Cup worth more than we give it credit for?
I certainly have little regard for the competition, with the Hornet`s involvement ending in the second round against Bradford of all teams, and our average life-span in recent seasons no better than the second or third round, my interest peaks during Watford`s involvement and not a second longer.
This season has been something different though. Bradford`s miraculous run, dispatching with Aston Villa over two legs as well as Wigan Athletic and Arsenal; the Gunners own 7-4 trouncing of Reading; the 5-4 thriller between Manchester United and Chelsea in which both sides decided defending was very much optional.
As League Cup campaigns go, this had been something special, and although I can hardly profess to be an avid fan, it`s been the most exciting season for the completion since Watford were eliminated by Rafa Benitez`s Liverpool in the semi-finals in 2005, 2-0 over two legs.
That run was something special, starting with an inauspicious 1-0 win over Cambridge United in extra-time courtesy of Andy Ferrell (remember him?), followed up by a win at the Madejski, a penalty shoot-out victory at Bramall Lane, a 5-2 pummelling of Portsmouth and the 3-0 stuffing of Southampton - both magical nights at the Vic`.
The reality is that the biggest teams genuinely don`t care for the League Cup. It comes bottom of the list of priorities, behind the Premier League, behind the Champions League and behind the F.A Cup.
However, when it comes to the latter-stages, the Arsenals, Liverpools and suddenly Chelseas of this world do start to take an interest; a chance for some silverware and a day out. By this point there`s usually one or two surprise names left in the hat and those who remain neutral are keen to see the little`uns slay the giants.
Let`s face it, most teams know they haven`t got a cat in hell`s chance of winning the thing, but the further you get, the more and more plausible it becomes. You dare to dream and you allow yourself to get caught up in the excitement of it all.
So, could the F.A Cup learn something from the League Cup perhaps? As a general rule the big boys do take the 'world`s premičre and most original knock-out tournament ever, the likes of which have never been seen outside of England` more seriously than it`s little brother, thus diminishing the chances of the little guy doing well.
On top of that, replays mean the minnows can play for the draw in the initial tie and hope to slain the giant once and for all at the second-time of asking. How often does that actually come to fruition?
Nine times out of 10 your best chance of felling a big side is on the night. If they don`t turn up for the first 90 minutes, the chances are they definitely won`t fancy extra time or penalties, fatigued and without their star names.
Yes, it`s time to do away with replays. Games are so much more exciting when teams know they have 90, a maximum of 120 minutes to win it and it subsequently forces sides to go for the kill from the off.
Tiring legs prompt greater excitement as defenders get dragged out of position bombing on but find their lead-laden limbs unable to take them back to their position and so mistakes happen; the root of goals, which is what we pay to see, right?
If you`d have asked me about the League Cup at the beginning of the season, I would have demeaned it, laughed in its face. Now, after a season of thrills and spills it`s quite clear we actually have a product which doesn`t get the respect it deserves and could teach it`s more established, more revered big brother a lesson at the same time. What do YOU think of the League Cup? Is this year a one-off? How would YOU improve either domestic cup competition? Let us know by commenting below!