Coming of the Scots?
For once, the adverse headlines surrounding the League Cup won’t focus on weakened line ups this morning – the boys from Newham, Shadwell and Wapping have seen to that – but with each season, the competition limps on like an old nag who saw good service in its day, but should now be headed for the glue factory.
Sheffield Wednesday may have been the main casualty of the evening after their 2-0 reverse in Burslem but unlike their cross city brethren in the previous round, they at least fielded a strong line up. Swansea took a novel approach to selecting an under strength line up. The starting XI wasn’t bad, but the West Glamorganshire club somehow managed to end proceedings with just seven men in play; Gary Monk, Angel Rangel and Gorka Pintado all walking the gangplank and the umistakeably Scottish Stephen Dobbie retiring hurt. This brought to mind memories of Neil Warnock’s antics against West Brom all those years ago – Dean Richards: three year ban; Warnock: off the hook.
The other concern is the crowds. By way of example, just 8,838 watched Forest’s excellent win over Middlesbrough. I wonder if the visiting salaries were set with those kind of attendances in mind? 5,576 were at the Mad Stad for a grim all Championship battle between Royals and Tykes, with Brendan Rodgers choosing his admittedly hard to define second string in the manner of predecessor Steve Coppell.
So, is the competition beyond hope? Premier League cannonry will be even more muted over forthcoming rounds. Whilst the health of the FA Cup is more concerning and there are definite suggestions in place to apply balm (the award of a Champions League place to the winners being my favourite solution and even Rodgers promising to go with a first choice team when hostilities start), the League Cup needs major surgery.
Aside from putting the competition out of its misery in the manner of the far less deserving Cup Winners’ Cup, perhaps a pan-British approach might inject new life? The incorporation of the twelve Scottish Premier League clubs into the draw would provide a new twist, with the early rounds played around now – nobody wants an away trip to Perth much later than August. A Europa League spot might also be bequeathed – especially given everyone is stepping over eachother to avoid competing in that event anyway (Gary Megson, are you there?) and good old fashioned fines could also be brought to bear – maybe the TV company contracts could specify that teams have to be stronger? Clubs have at least reduced entry prices on the night, but the country’s third most important tourney is far from hale.