Not too many years ago, winning a League Cup and reaching the final of the FA Cup would be regarded as a hugely successful season, no matter where the team finished in the League table.
However, those were the days of course of romantic football, when reaching a Wembley final for many was even bigger than the celebrations of claiming a league crown. The FA Cup was the stuff of boyhood dreams and it was a point raised by Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard during the build-up to the Carling Cup Final. He said that despite winning the league and the Champions League, there would be no better feeling for him than to lift a cup at Wembley and raise it in the direction of the Liverpool fans. With luck, Gerrard may well be able to realise that dream after next month’s FA Cup final against Chelsea.
Sadly however, winning the FA Cup in an economic sense and it is business terms that count these days, guarantees only a place on Europe’s footballing undercard, the Europa League, while a much sought after fourth place in the league table qualifies a team for the top billing Champions League the ever expanding purse that goes with it. This of course is precisely why Liverpool boss, Kenny Dalglish is under so much pressure this season at Anfield.
Win or lose the FA Cup final, Dalglish’s card will be marked, his tenure would be rewarded two cup victories in his first full season back at Anfield in over 20 years and he’d no doubt be given a vote of confidence from the Liverpool Board. However this is no longer the 1980s and sadly, winning a cup for a club the size of Liverpool nolongers “cuts it” in a game so obsessed by money in 2012.
Many would argue that Dalglish’s Liverpool team is strategically inept, a team incapable of playing 38 games in a season better than any other and a team bereft of the spirit of those Liverpool teams of the 70s and 80s that saw Dalglish enjoy so much dominance as both a player and manager at Anfield.
Of course, if the FA Cup was still regarded with its true value then it would qualify the winners for the Champions League at the expense of the fourth placed team in the league. If that was the case then imagine what that would do for the competition? Indeed, imagine the incentive for both Liverpool and Chelsea as they head to Wembley for what once was regarded as the seasons showpiece with neither team qualified as yet for the Champions League. It would make the FA Cup the game of the season.
Sadly that will not be the case and in theory, Kenny Dalglish’s job is not safe at Anfield. The club’s owners, New England Sports Ventures, have invested heavily in playing personnel and will, sooner or later, want to see a positive return on their investment, something that a Carling Cup and FA Cup won’t deliver. Two cup wins in one season still remains a great achievement in football, however, it is does not come with the same prestige of years gone and it could be argued that the Carling Cup and at least a trip to Wembley for the FA Cup final has provided Kenny Dalglish with a stay of execution but it has to be said that a repeat performance in the Premier League next season, could well see the club’s American owners looking for a new manager.