Take a sprinkling of underdog triumphs, add a pinch of young players getting their chance to impress and top it all off with plenty of goals and you have a fine recipe, a recipe that we call the Capital One Cup.
The first competitive competition of the year has sometimes been pushed aside by teams, but the fact remains that the League Cup is a fine example of everything that’s good about English football.
The tournament’s schedule makes for an unusual set of circumstances, leaving football fans with a mid-season cup final at Wembley. The prospect of wining silverware at just past the mid point of the domestic season is one that attracts many teams, making for exciting ties and some unexpected results.
Lets start with the first ingredient of the Capital One Cup: underdog triumphs. Cup football is very much a winner takes it all process, with a one off game often granting the team who perform on the day a spot in the next round. Whereas over a league season the cream rises, the League Cup can throw a team from the lower echelons of the professional tier up against true giants of the English game.
Bradford City’s penalty shoot-out win against Arsenal in this year’s quarter-final is a fine example of the plucky minnow triumphing in ‘David vs. Goliath’ fashion. The Bantams were expected to be brushed aside with ease by Arsene Wenger’s troops, but instead they battled valiantly, took the lead and, after they conceded late on in normal time, won after converting three spot-kicks.
Moving on the next ingredient we add to our mixture is youngsters getting their chance to impress. The hectic nature of the English fixture schedule sees games coming thick and fast, with many players still attempting to find full fitness. This causes some managers to shuffle their pack and throw new players into the mix. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but occasionally some real gems are unveiled to the footballing world, think Arsenal’s conveyer belt of talent which flourished in the League Cup.
To complete our now mouth-watering dish we have goals, and lots of them. With only the semi-finals taking place over two legs in the modern competition, a winner on the night is guaranteed, which encourages teams to go for broke in search of an all important equaliser or a goal to ensure their passage into the next round. There have been a number of thumping victories in this season’s competition such as Swindon Town’s 4-3 win over Stoke, Crewe Alexandra’s 5-0 mauling of Hartlepool and Chelsea’s 6-0 demolition job against Wolves. Whilst fans of the side on the wrong end of result may not enjoy the ball nestling in the net, neutrals love goals, and goals are loved by the League Cup.
The final whistle at the end of the final always marks then end of a tough, but rewarding, process that has been enjoyed by almost everybody who loves the sport. Unlike some competitions the Capital One Cup rarely disappoints, with a no holds barred mentality and mixture of some great ingredients, a footballing feast is almost always served.