The Carabao Cup enters its third round tonight as EFL clubs from up and down the country compete in England’s second most prestigious cup competition. It’s now entering in its 63rd year, but elite level managers complain more than ever about fixture congestion and tired players, is it reaching the end of the road? This season, with more added time than ever and longer games, it feels as though something has to give.
Below two Sportsman writers debate the pros and cons of getting rid of the EFL Cup for good.
The League Cup has been a rich part of English football since its inception back in 1960. Its name shows the rest of the world that it belongs to the Football League/EFL and that there is more to English football than the Premier League. Of course, it is those people associated with the top flight that would see the League Cup discarded without any consideration for the smaller clubs.
Granted, the schedules are getting more congested but it has always been this way for the clubs who are thriving and playing in all the best competitions. The game, technology and sport science has all evolved over the years and the players in the Premier League right now will have much better facilities than those in the EFL, who don’t moan about the added fixtures a cup run would bring.
The EFL is renowned for its ruthless, Saturday/midweek schedule yet you don’t see any of those players throwing their toys out of the pram because they know how much of an honour it is to win the League Cup. It might not be as prestigious as the globally known FA Cup, but it still feels great to win it. It’s ironic that Raphael Varane and the Manchester United supporters who would gladly see the competition scrapped to ease the schedule, were going absolutely bonkers at Wembley Stadium when they won it in February.
It may have only been founded 63 years ago, but the League Cup is now etched into the fabric of the English game and if it were to be removed, it would be another indication that the sport is being tarnished by capitalism. While it may not have quite the same glamour, if the elite clubs in the Premier League think they’re too good to play in the League Cup then perhaps we should exclude them and let everyone else partake because it gives clubs another opportunity to secure a major title.
Since the turn of the century we have seen the likes of Blackburn Rovers, Middlesbrough, Birmingham City and Swansea City emerge as League Cup winners, while Bradford City (who were in League Two at the time), went on a spectacular run to face Swansea in the 2013 final. Speaking as a Birmingham fan who was present for that incredible underdog story as we beat Arsenal in 2011 thanks to Obafemi Martins’ 89th-minute winner, that moment has been the greatest I’ve ever experienced following the club. I wouldn’t have traded it for survival in the Premier League, which many ‘big six’ fans consider to be far more important.
To take the League Cup away from those sets of supporters, and many more like them who would love to win it, would undermine everything football stands for.
As a football addict, I want to see as much football as possible. I’ll squeeze in a game whenever I can and as an EFL lover, have a real affinity for those underdog cup runs. But the Carabao Cup doesn’t do it for me. It doesn’t really do it for anybody anymore does it?
The whole thing is met with a sense of apathy from the big clubs, who cruise through the knockout stages until they reach the semi-finals. For the smaller clubs, round one is simply an extension of pre-season, another fixture to get players up to speed and a chance to test out some youth players.
I don’t actually care how many games the top team have to play and don’t think fixture congestion is an issue in the slightest, so getting rid of the competition for that reason would be silly. Especially when the likes of Manchester City can afford to field a second string side right through to the final. But it’s simply not competitive anymore.
The likes of Swansea and Birmingham may have won the competition but that was over a decade ago. The recent winners list is about as uninspiring as football can be. Manchester City, Chelsea, Man City, Manchester United, Man City, Man City, Man City, Man City, Liverpool, Man Utd.
Most importantly, none of these clubs even give a toss whether they win it or not. Liverpool were actually mocked for having won the Carabao Cup when their quadruple fell apart. It ended Man Utd’s trophy drought, but in truth it’s only marginally ranked above the Community Shield these days. Winning one won’t save a manager his job, and none of the recent finals are memorable enough to recall.
The gap between the haves and the have-nots has grown to a preposterous level over the past decade and this is the proof. There won’t be another Birmingham or Swansea. It’s simply a big club’s play-thing that they don’t even really want to win. What’s the point?
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