Confession time, I'm an Oxford fan... Now we've got that out of the way, growing up supporting a team that's only ever won one trophy, being the League Cup, and are likely never to win another in my life time I get particularly disgruntled when I hear or read comments that support the growing opinion to do away with the League Cup. Most of those voices shouting loudest on the side of this argument come from clubs whose bread is buttered by the Premier League or Champions League and not usually from those clubs outside the top flight.
Do we need two domestic cup competitions?
The main argument to remove it follows the line that most other European Leagues only have one domestic cup competition so why don't we? Well firstly English football has and never will be a follower but rather will remain a leader, something for other countries to aspire to. Secondly no other footballing nation can get close to the depth of our football league structure or indeed garner the interest and support it receives. We have four professional divisions and a non-league game that is a healthy as it has ever been. The League Cup plays a meaningful and important role within the game, especially for those teams in the lower divisions.
Growing up I've got very fond memories of giant killing bigger clubs under the floodlights. These matches were a highlight in the season, a bit of glamour and a chance to knock out one of the ‘big boys'. Grimsby Town fans would, I am sure, concur with this opinion having knocked out Liverpool and Tottenham in recent memory and Swansea City fans would never swap the experience of winning this trophy in exchange for a top four finish in the Premier League. At the end of the day a trophy is still a trophy and there are a number of clubs who have only ever won the League Cup.
Playing Weakened Teams
Many of the bigger clubs who have other priorities chose to field a weakened team in the League Cup and sides like Arsenal and Manchester United tend to use it to give their youngsters some game time. I, for one, don't have a problem with this as it makes it more exciting for the rest of us. I was one of those firmly in Mick McCarthy's corner when he was outrageously fined for making ten changes to his match-day squad from his previous match. What is the point of having a squad if you are not allowed to use it as you see fit! So if clubs use this competition as a chance to rotate their squads then they should be allowed to and often it will still mean that there is a quality eleven out on the field such is the strength in depth that some of the Premier League clubs can now call upon.
Chance of some Silverware
If you're a Premier League team whose only target for the season is to finish mid table and avoid a relegation battle then a good run in a cup competition can be a real highlight. It could also be a realistic chance at some silverware. The FA Cup will always be a more prestigious competition but the League Cup can offer some of the also ran Premier League clubs and some of the better Championship sides an opportunity to win a cup that would otherwise be out of reach.
I very much hope that the League Cup will be around for many years to come and continue to be as exciting and unpredictable as it has always been.
I end this piece by saying that I was saddened to hear of the passing of former League Cup winner Dalian Atkinson this week. He was an icon of his generation and will be sorely missed yet never forgotten.