In defence of the League Cup

One of the many, many solutions mooted as part of the master plan to revive English football in the aftermath of Fabio Capello’s failure to bring home the World Cup this summer was, not for the first time, the abolition of the League Cup. What a terrible shame that would be.

It is tempting to stick the knife into the England squad. We could quote salaries. We could quote results. We could get rather carried away with that particular approach with ease.

After all, it must really be a drain on poor, precious £80,000-a-week midfielders to have to do a bit of legwork in a routine home victory over unworthy lower-league opposition once or twice a year. Extremely tempting.

The real story of the League Cup arrives a long way before two of the big four or five slug it out half-heartedly at Wembley in springtime. The real story lies in Morecambe and in Bradford and in Southend and in Crewe.

This evening, those four League Two clubs have accounted, respectively, for Coventry City, Nottingham Forest, Bristol City and Derby County. Now they each have their sights on a meeting with one of the big boys in the next round.

It is not just the chance of a giant-killing that generates excitement among supporters of lower-league clubs. Domestic cup competitions also give fans the chance to showcase their often incredible displays of support in a more prominent arena.

On Monday evening, the majority of viewers tuning in to watch Championship side Portsmouth’s trip to Stevenage would have expected to see John Portsmouth Football Club Westwood in action. To be crystal clear, the bloke with the bell.

What they might not have expected was the non-stop noise generated by the admirably enthusiastic home fans. It was an effort that deserved the platform of Sky television and acclaim from the national media.

League Two can be a bit of a grind. There usually is not a great deal of attractive football on show and the names are not the most glamorous for the most part. A host of big clubs have found themselves in League One in recent years but none have made it quite so far down the league ladder as the fourth tier yet.

The League Cup often acts as a welcome distraction, even in defeat. Honourable loss in the face of adversity can feel more heart-warming than a run-of-the-mill victory in an unremarkable league game. At the Walkers Stadium this evening, loyal Macclesfield Town supporters warmly applauded their players off the pitch after a battling 4-3 defeat against a side assembled for millions.

Leicester City have just added the impressive Moreno, from Portuguese top flight outfit Vitoria Guimaraes, to their ranks and he made a fine debut against the Silkmen. His coolness in possession and effortless distribution is something Macclesfield fans cannot reasonably expect to see from their own players on a regular basis.

However, the visitors gave Leicester a real fright with some excellent periods of play which genuinely troubled their Championship hosts. The hardy fans that had travelled from Cheshire were certainly appreciative and a section of the away end was vocal throughout the game.

Ask supporters of Morecambe, Bradford, Southend and Crewe this evening whether they would abolish the League Cup. Ask supporters of Northampton, who knocked out League One side Brighton after a dismal opening day defeat at Torquay.

Or Port Vale, who saw off Neil Warnock’s QPR. Or Rochdale, who went to Barnsley and won. Or Oxford, who put six past Bristol Rovers of League One. Or even Macclesfield.

Maybe some would say yes, but the smart money would say most probably agree that the League Cup should be cherished and maintained in the face of any threatened cutbacks. It matters little who actually wins the thing in the end. The stories along the way are what really matter.

The Seventy Two
The Seventy Two published an outstanding series of articles about the Football League between 2010-12 and was the brainchild of Leicester City fan, David Bevan. As well as collaborating with The Two Unfortunates on the Football League Blog Network and a mammoth 2011-12 season preview, the site featured a host of leading bloggers and David was rewarded with a nomination in the 2011 Football Supporters’ Federation awards. Latterly, he was joined as co-editor by Joe Harrison and TTU is happy to present this archive of the site’s output.


  1. Lanterne Rouge
    August 11, 2010

    Sadly and reluctantly, I’m not so sure I agree. As I wrote a year ago, “We now know the last eight for the Carling Cup and my, how boring a line up is that? The Arsenal v Liverpool match the other night was of a high standard and quite entertaining, but in the end, the result just didn’t matter a jot – as the game unfolded, I found myself adopting the dispassionate bearing of a student of the game rather than somebody caught up in the passion and excitement of it all. I felt like a scout watching new players, prepared to leave ten minutes before the end, Capello style. I didn’t care and frankly, who else would?”

    I agree that the competition can provide moments of excitement for unheralded clubs, but the tendency for the bigger guns to field weakened line ups ever devalues these triumphs – and the scheduling of an international week has only made matters worse this year.

    I believe that Torquay would have stood a very good chance of beating even a full Reading line up but the Royals’ line up for tomorrow’s match will likely be seriously denuded, thus taking the gloss of any Gulls victory.

    • The 72
      August 11, 2010

      It’s a fair point. There was something about last night, seeing those Macclesfield supporters clapping all their players off after a valiant effort, then listening to Bradford knock out Forest in extra time in the car on the way home, then hearing about all the other lower-league teams that had beaten more illustrious opponents… it just felt much more like my idea of football than the Premiership/England at the World Cup etc.

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    November 8, 2010

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