The Carling Cup Branded Small Beer

We recently saw the start of another Carling cup campaign for many Premier League sides, but yet again the relevance of the competition is being called into question.

For the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United this competition has helped clubs to develop their talented youth players over the past decade, but for teams who are battling against relegation come the end of the season it could just prove a hindrance in their fight for survival.

Out of the eight Premier League sides that played that Tuesday night (all against lower league opposition I may add!) half were knocked out in pretty comfortable fashion.

Comments made by QPR manager Neil Warnock and Mick McCarthy of Wolves, suggest that many clubs in the Premier League just don’t care about the competition anymore. Warnock was quoted as saying he was glad his side had been knocked out and that it was never a priority for the club. The QPR boss made eight changes to the side that beat Everton 1-0 at the weekend showing where his priorities lie.

Norwich, another of the newly promoted sides, fielded 11 different players to the team that drew with Stoke last weekend and although manager Paul Lambert didn’t suggest the cup was a waste of time he did reiterate the fact that Premier League survival was his main priority.

Attendance figures also seem to suggest that it is not only clubs that have lost interest in the competition but the fans too. The average attendance of  that Tuesday’s 16 Carling Cup ties was 7,631, with only three games attracting gates of more than 10,000, but why is that? Why has the Carling Cup not got the same spark as the FA cup and why are fans not going to the games anymore?

It’s fair enough that the Premier League clubs who are also playing in Europe might not give the competition greater precedence. But surely that just makes the League Cup a more tempting piece of silverware for the lower league sides. In my mind this is a competition that is excellent for giving fringe players a real test of a game and can also give clubs a change to get in a confident mood and a good rhythm of scoring some goals! Plus the team that wins it has a guaranteed entry into Europe and its a trophy to put in the cabinet.

Whether managers, players or even fans care about the cup anymore is a debate which still seems to be settled….but going to a cup final at Wembley is a memorable day out – any Birmingham fan will tell you that! However, being in the Championship the following season rather than in the top flight is something they’d rather forget!

We shall wait and see if they win promotion back to the Premier League come the end of the season, but ask any of their fans or players right now if they would have won the Carling Cup or won their battle against relegation and I’m pretty sure I know what all of their answers will be….

Matt Bodimeade

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