Sport

The League Cup: Should it stay or should it go?

By Mancunian Matters staff

With attendances for Capital One Cup games on the slide, consultant editor Andrew Greaves and sports editor Barrie White look at whether the competition has a future in English football.

‘The League Cup gives fans something else to get excited about at the start of the season’ – Barrie White argues his case for sticking with it.

Speaking as an Evertonian, there’s no logic to me having an affinity with the League Cup.

The Toffees have lost two finals – in 1977, losing a second replay to Aston Villa, and in 1984, where deadly rivals Liverpool pipped the Blues in a replay at Manchester City’s Maine Road.

Recently, our best record is a semi-final defeat over two legs to eventual winners Chelsea in 2008, and Everton have been more than kind to any lower league teams looking for an upset.

But I would still have the League Cup, in whatever sponsored guise, as an integral part of English football, though it would be sensible to introduce some changes.

Some in football have called for the League Cup to become pre-season tournament – in the style of the German Cup, where teams play before the season starts and the top-level teams are often drawn away.

This would work to some extent, but the complaints that would come from some teams, particularly in Leagues One and Two, is that they would be denied revenues from travelling to the bigger clubs.

My own personal preference for the restructuring of the League Cup would be to make it regional – north and south – and then make it national in the last 16 or quarter-final stages.

I would remove all seeding too – imagine Manchester City v Manchester United, Everton v Liverpool or Arsenal v Tottenham, all these clubs knocking each other out while Rochdale take on Yorkshire rivals from just over the moors and Bury slug it out with Oldham for a place in the quarters.

This would reduce the burden on fans, such as the 154 hardy souls that travelled from Plymouth to Burnley, to pay for tickets and travel.

It reinforces local rivalries – imagine a third round tie between Blackpool and Fleetwood or Burnley and Blackburn – and gives fans something else to be excited about at the beginning of the season.

Not everyone is a fan of the League Cup, but it can be a beacon of getting back to basics for watching low-cost, high intensity football to inspire a new generation of fans.

‘Lets make the League Cup like the Olympics’ Andrew Greaves argues the case for scrapping – or at least changing – the competition.

Does anyone really care about the League Cup anymore?

I’m pretty sure I don’t have sat in the freezing cold for nearly three hours on Tuesday night.

Burnley v Plymouth Argyle in the second round of the Capital One Cup didn’t seem to get many pulses racing either judging by the attendance with just over 4,000 – including 154 hardly souls from the south west – deciding there was nothing else to do in that part of east Lancashire on a Tuesday night.

Forgetting about the match itself for a moment – not a difficult task believe me – the whole feel of the competition has something lacking.

Managers put out reserve sides, fans stay away and even the prize at the end of it – a place in the Europa League – only appeals to those outside the top 12 in the Premier League.

So what can we do about? My first thought would be to scrap it to ease the fixture burden.

Managers live and die by league results and an extra cup competition adds more pressure to the situation.

That was my initial view but then I decided to think a little more about it.

A place in Europe is something worth playing for surely? Some top flight bosses view the Thursday fixtures in far flung Eastern Europe as a hazard they could do without but it still brings in plenty of cash and at a time when clubs are needing to balance the books, a run through the group stages is not to be sniffed at.

OK, so I’m not completely against keeping it but I do think that major changes need to be made.

My big idea to revolutionise the competition actually comes from a mixture of Arsene Wenger and the Olympics. Well, sort of.

Arsene has always used his youngsters in this competition and has had – albeit – limited success (as far as getting to the latter stages anyway) and some of these players would never have tasted first team football had it not been for the Carling Cup.

There are youngsters at every club in the country in the same position so why not make the League Cup for under-23 sides with each team also allowed to name three over-age players in their matchday squad. And we just have it for teams in the top two divisions.

Fans want to see young talent but have very little chance to do so because youth (or development squad) matches take place at training grounds at strange times of the day.

Having it for the top two divisions only would mean that the players are competing against sides of a higher calibre (or at least equal standing) and I honestly don’t think attendances would be worse than they are in the current format.

Premier League bosses have been playing their reserves for as long as I can remember so lets make that the norm.

What about lower league teams I hear you cry. Well, they do have the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and they have much smaller squads so something has to give.

A lower league club has very little chance of reaching the final of the League Cup and although it does provide the odd pay day for them, many of them end up exiting on a whimper at the hands of a side from their own division. Not much fun in that is there?

Having just the league, the FA Cup and the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy to concentrate would lift the pressure and, arguably, make League One and Two more competitive.

And for the top two divisions, we could start the League Cup in the last week of pre-season and have the whole thing done by Christmas. We could even make Boxing Day cup final day and give players at those clubs an extra couple of days off.

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