‘Mickey Mouse Cup’ Syndrome Strikes Again
This week has seen the Capital One Cup get underway again, with teams all battling for a place in the Quarter Finals. The age-old argument of whether teams should play a ‘second string’ has once again reared its head.
October 31st, 2013
We all know the situation – You’ve had a derby game against one of your Premier League rivals the weekend before, and you’ve got a crunch European game the week after. The last thing your team needs is yet another match, this time in the League Cup, away to a League Two side on a cold Tuesday night. This is the predicament faced by many Premier League managers, and quite frankly I can understand why they don’t take the League Cup as seriously as perhaps they should.
When the European cups and success in the Premier League are likely to bring more revenue to a club than winning the League Cup, I think it’s fair enough that they concentrate on those competitions. It’s not right, granted, but it’s understandable. This is especially the case now that the Premier League is a more open affair. We currently have Southampton in 5th place, just two points behind second-placed Chelsea, and I’m sure Señor Pochettino would not risk his side’s place in the Premier League by potentially picking up an injury in a League Cup fixture.
But this is why we have 25-man squads right? Well, admittedly the situation has gotten better in recent years. The introduction of having 25 man squads has improved the situation somewhat, with a lot of youth players not being registered and having to play in development squads. However, the necessity for there to be a certain number of home-grown players causes teams to have to thrust English youngsters into their squads to flesh them out.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for their development, but realistically they’ll only play a handful of games, especially if the teams get knocked out of the cup early on. I don’t think the issue lies with the managers, but rather with the competition and the prize at the end.
If we had the Champions League as an actual Champions League, rather than a top-four league, there would be much more incentive to put out a strong team and try and win the trophy. You could have the champions, 2nd place and the cup winners from each country, with a stronger Europa League also benefitting.
Others would argue that the League Cup provides ‘smaller’ teams a chance to win a trophy. Blackburn, Tottenham, Birmingham and Swansea have been recent winners, and this gives them a route to Europe and new experiences for their fans. I like this aspect and welcome different teams at Wembley.
I see it as a bit of a nothing competition. Whilst it’s nice to see different teams than the usual suspects reaching the final, the prize isn’t big enough, and it suffers because of this. In my opinion we should either improve it, or drop it and allow our elite teams to concentrate on Europe, and allow the Championship teams to enter the Football League Trophy for their shot at Wembley. Premier League teams would then also put a lot more effort into the FA Cup, benefitting the English game all around.