Carling Cup: 5 Reasons to Love the Tournament
The Football League Cup, or Carling Cup as it is most commonly introduced through sponsorship, is it its third round of competition, but for many this is the first time that we are playing attention.
At this stage, the tournament that pits the top 92 teams in England against one another, introduces the few that have had byes due to their European competitions.
For those teams the Carling Cup is usually toward the bottom on the list of how the clubs prioritize the competition. It lacks both the prestige of something like the FA Cup and monetary motivation of the Champions League.
However, with saying that you will never find a manager, player or fan base who would not like to add another piece of silverware to the cabinet.
Here are five reasons that we should all love the Carling Cup.
Chance to See the Future
It is often said that the Premier League season is a marathon not a sprint.
By this point in the season, many clubs are involved in two or three different competitions.
If managers were to put out their best XI in all 45-50 games they will play this year, they not only risk injuring them, but also losing out to fatigue.
The low priority of the Carling Cup makes the tournament a perfect time to rest starters for Premier League and European games later in the month.
This leads many of the teams to field sides that are not only lacking the star players, but made up of many names that even the most die-hard fan has not heard before. It is generally a team of youth players.
It is a chance for them to prove that they have developed their talents further during the season and should get another look come the Premier League.
For the manager it gives them the ability to see how far those youngsters have progressed. It is one thing to see them in practice against their teammates, but another in a competition where the stakes are single elimination knock-out.
It does not matter if in these early rounds the teams are inferior to yours because it is still playing against players that the youngsters are not use to. The Carling Cup is somewhat of a luxury for a manager.
And for the fans, it gives a glimpse into what their club holds for the future. You can see if you think your manager is making the right moves and if the academy is producing the type of talent that can help you to glory in the coming seasons.
A Chance to See a Manager's Real Talent
Though you could probably look back through the history of the Football League Cup and never find a manager who lost their job due to a poor showing in the tournament, it is still something that would be nice to win.
Just ask Arsenal who is going through silverware withdrawal after the 2011 Carling Cup final debacle to Birmingham.
However, like I previously stated it is not somewhere that managers will risk their best players. Therefore it becomes a real chess match between bosses.
It is kind of an unwritten rule that Premier League sides playing each other will not field their best XI, especially in the early rounds.
But it also is an opportunity to get a mental up of an opposition that you will face later in the season.
As a manager you want to do a balancing act between putting the best squad out there you can and also resting your starters.
For most this means having a B-side as the starting XI and a handful of the A squad on the bench, just in case things begin to go wrong. This kind of strategy will usually get sufficient enough to get the win, but if not it could become a real problem for the manager.
Take for instance the Chelsea vs. Fulham match yesterday. Villas-Boas started a very young squad, but had Juan Mata, Frank Lampard, John Terry, and Didier Drogba on the bench ready to go in if need be.
Martin Jol started an equally inexperienced bunch, but his bench lacked names like Clint Dempsey and Damien Duff. In a game that finished with 0-0 and Chelsea being down a man for over an hour, that kind of fire power may have been enough to see them through.
A manager’s true ability is not displayed when they are able to put together a squad of all-stars and win. It is displayed when they can scrap together pieces and still come away with a victory.
A Chance to See Upsets
What makes sports great is that anything can happen. The fact that the game is played on the field and not on paper is the reason we watch.
Upsets makes sports fun.
In the Premier League, Champions League, even FA Cup, there is no room for managers or players to risk allowing an upset. The consequences of such an occurrence are far too great.
Team’s show up with that mentality and knowing that these kinds of matches are must wins.
But with the lack of commitment many of the higher up teams show to the Carling Cup. Through their rosters and general emphasis, there is a great amount of potential for huge upsets to occur.
This week is not a great example of this happening as there were no great upsets that will have fans reminiscing about in the future, but the in the past we have seen plenty. You need to look no further than Birmingham City’s impressive run all the way to the title.
The Premier League team that seem destined for relegation by December, but their Carling Cup campaign was just getting started.
Beginning in the fourth round against Brentford where it took penalties to get by, they would progress all the way to the finals on wins earned in the dying minutes.
Then at Wembley against Arsenal, Birmingham would finish off their impressive run with a shock 2-1 victory over the heavily favored Gunners. It gave them their first trophy in over 50 years and denied Arsenal a chance at breaking their streak of seven consecutive without.
If upsets are what you love about sports, than the Carling Cup is the place to go for all your needs.
A Chance to See Drama
A 5-0 win is usually not fun to watch, unless it’s your team putting the drumming on the other and especially not if your team is the one being beaten up on.
All sport fans love and appreciate a close competitive match that seems to build in intensity as it goes on.
The longer two teams stay even, the closer they come to giving a finish that will have everyone talking. The Carling Cup is full of these moments.
With at least one of the two sides less than at full strength, there is rarely a match that will be decided by a preposterous amount.
Generally the two sides will remain within a goal or two of one another making the final minutes all the more exciting to watch. Again just look at Birmingham last year.
Of the 16 games that were played yesterday six were decided in the last ten minutes and another three had goals in the span as teams pressed forward to try and even the score.
It is a refreshing anxiety that teams and fans face as they know that draws do them no good in this single elimination format. They play until the final whistle with the threat of extra time lurking overhead.
Most managers would rather win the game outright by taking the risk of throwing players forward than to have to add another 30 minutes to the game.
It doesn’t get any better than Newcastle vs. Nottingham. Three goals in extra time including Fabricio Coloccini’s winner with literally seconds left on the clock.
And of course let’s not forget about everyone’s favorite thing to watch in football match, penalties. Three of the 16 games went to penalties. Nothing makes fans stand on their feet as much as this most cynical way to decide a game.
The very best players in the world are made to look foolish in the crap shoot that is a shootout. But that mental battle that takes place in the mind of the shooter, between him, the keeper and the ball is one of the most dramatic moments in all of sports.
A Chance to Watch More Football
Perhaps there is not better reason to state why we should love the Carling Cup other than the fact it is just more of the game to watch.
With European contests on break and Premier League games becoming more routine, it's refreshing to have a new tournament pop up for the top clubs and give us something to do with our midweek evenings.
A crappy day at work in the middle of the week, knowing that the weekend is only too far away to think about, games like these are a nice little treat to have before us.
If you are a true fan of the sport, then it should not matter to you that some of these games get only 9,000 fans in attendance. It also should not matter that the meaning of a win here is more earning of a pat on the back than actual praise.
You should appreciate the game for what it is and be glad that it is here.
The Carling Cup is a fun tournament that gives us a different perspective on our favorite teams and gives all squads involved a fighting chance to win.
Any sport fan should be glad to have that kind of competition available for them to watch.
What Do You Enjoy About the Carling Cup?
Is there anything about the Carling Cup that you enjoy that I missed? Or is the Football League Cup just a waste of time that the big boys are better off getting out of early?