This week we were once again blessed with the latest incarnation of the nation’s least favourite domestic cup competition, the League Cup. Currently known as the Carabao Cup, the damp tea towel of a contest is on its 10th regeneration – a bit like Dr Who, except while the Doctor keeps the same name but changes form, the League Cup changes its name but sticks to its uninspiring reserve team kickabout format.
Just like Dr Who, I find everyone has their own favourite version of the League Cup; my favourite Doctor was David Tennant and to me, the disappointing distraction from relevant football will always be the Carling Cup. According to Wikipedia, there were five crossover years, from 2005 – 2010, where I could watch the Carling Cup on a weeknight and see David Tennant travel through time and space on a Saturday afternoon. The glory years. Where’s a TARDIS when you need one?
Devoid of passion, effort and first team quality, the Carabao Cup offers far less to the footballing world than England’s cup competition for the lower leagues, originally named the League Trophy. In a similar vein to the League Cup, the League Trophy is now on its 8th regeneration, with my personal favourite being the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy – it’s the specification that they sell paint that gets me every time. They’re not the first sponsor to specify their line of work however: 1987-89 saw the brief cameo of the ‘Sherpa Van Trophy’, a (not so) classic of (not so) modern times. Still, it’s not something you see very often – imagine Coventry City playing at the ‘Ricoh Printers, Photocopiers and Fax Machine Arena’. Having said that, Carabao may benefit from some descriptive information, although the ‘Carabao Thai Energy Drink Cup’ doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
In all seriousness however, the football calendar has done the Carabao Cup no favours. Scheduling the third round of the competition in the middle of a busy September, sandwiched between two Champions League and Premier League ties isn’t going to encourage Mourinho, Klopp and co. to put out a full-strength squad. If we’re past the point of trying to bring the League Cup up to the standard of the FA Cup, could it be time for a new injection of life? The format of both top-level domestic cup competitions is identical other than the two-legged semi-finals of the former – maybe we just need a re-brand. What’s wrong with a cheeky six-a-side? I’m not saying I have all the answers but throw a bit of ‘next goal wins’ into the equation and I bet viewing figures and nationwide enjoyment will increase tenfold.