I remember my first like yesterday, the 1987 Littlewoods League Cup Final as a Champagne Charlie Nicholas double helped overcome the mighty Liverpool and an early Ian Rush goal in front of 96,000 at Wembley. Arsenal included such names as Steve Williams, Martin Hayes and the late great David Rocastle. Liverpool with Barry Venison, Nigel Spackman and Johnny Wark amongst their repertoire.
A red bodied and white sleeved adidas JVC number against the classic white crown paints sponsored shirt and black shorts of Liverpool in glorious sunshine on the luscious green Wembley turf.
A year later Luton Town, would upset the odds against the holders, winning arguably the best League Cup final showpiece in my life time. Andy Dibble saving a penalty, Brian Stein with a late dramatic winner, a five goal thriller won against the odds by the underdog… Then came Brian Clough’s Forest. Fashionable in red, beating unfashionable holders Luton in 89 with a fantastic second 45, more delight a year later as the Reds beat an even more unfashionable Oldham in 90 thanks to Nigel Jemson, 91 was all about John Sheridan’s half volleyed winner for Sheffield Wednesday against Manchester United, by then the Rumbelows Cup, 92 had Brian Choccy McClair in that funky blue United kit as hero.
By 1993 we were wearing squad numbers, Tony Adams was dropping goalscoring hero Steve Morrow off his shoulders, by 94 and 95 I was slowly losing interest…. Probably because by then, SKY had their mittens all over football, no more was the League Cup something that the best wanted to win. Premier League badge wearers Manchester United, the dominant side in the division didn’t care. They were too enthralled on trying to win in Europe whilst working out which one of their ‘British’ born foreigners to drop for the rule of three. By the Millennium the spark had gone for me… There was only so much of Martin O’Neill’s Leicester and Bryan Robson’s Middlesbrough I could take.
Since 2000, I honestly don’t know who has won it and what year?
Apart from the last four of those years I suppose, as those have been won by just one team. The best team in the land too, Manchester City under Pep are magnificent, they have made the trophy their own and in doing so, I think they can now have it.
I’ve been to two of the last three finals. The City v Chelsea game where Kepa refused to come off was drab. The one against Aston Villa where I credit a resurgent second half performance from Dean Smith’s side was marginally better, but I didn’t even watch this years, I could have gone, had I taken three covid tests and not expected anything more from my Wembley experience than a game of football with minimal atmosphere. No booze, no food, no photos with stars, no interest for me, let’s leave this one for the ‘real’ fans.
I’m not sure why I wasn’t so keen in watching, perhaps the fact that cup finals during covid just don’t feel right, but now having seen the result, having been underwhelmed by the follow up, the pre-match build, the lack of interest in the whole bloody thing, the fact I was right instead to go take my weekend empties to the bottle bank, I just think now it’s time to go.
Football has changed in this country, the European Super League has perhaps given us a push, a kick up the backside, a notification that all is not well. Why play football for the sake of football when half the people you are trying to appeal to, just don’t bloody care?? Let’s cut to the chase with this bullshit. We don’t need longer, more, drawn out comps with the same old winner… We need shorter format, less of them, let’s crack on and get to the business end quickly.
The League Cup was introduced in 1961 and has survived sixty years but for me enough is now enough.
It could reformat, as a Football League trophy for football league clubs, but the Premier League teams that have long killed their own love for it, they can go, stop, concentrate on the UEFA Conference or whatever they like, because there’s only now room for one major domestic cup competition, and by scrapping the Football League Cup, it might just save the FA Cup, which to me is fundamental in keeping the tradition alive in this country, that winning trophies matter.
Whilst I probably blame Manchester City for killing the interest of others regarding the competition, I respect Pep and co for what they have done, for being the one team to take it serious, for being the one team in England that can put out two teams that can probably win it. The difference in them against the others, increasing ever more as seasons go, maybe in ten or twenty years i’ll remember them as the best i’ve seen, which is why by giving them the cup forever, now, seems a fitting time as ever to call it a day.