For over five decades the League Cup has been graced by some of the finest talents to ply their trade in the English game with only a small band of individuals having the pleasure of lifting the famous trophy and taking away a winner’s medal each year. You tend to forget some of the players that have taken to the field in the competition at differing points and used it as a springboard for their career or to fill the empty voids in their trophy cabinet. Nevertheless some memorable names have encountered the League Cup one way or another and here’s 11 of the best.
GK: David James
James started between the sticks in Liverpool’s successful League Cup win over Bolton in 1995 in what is commonly known as the McManaman final. He went on to become England number one later in his career and one of the finest goalkeepers the country has produced, continuing to play well into his forties.
DF: Gerard Pique
A regular in the League Cup for Manchester United, the lack of first team action forced Pique to leave Old Trafford in 2008 and return to Barcelona. Unprecedented success followed the Spain international and he is now considered one of the world’s best central defenders. The one that got away for Sir Alex Ferguson.
DF: Gary Neville
Making his League Cup debut against Port Vale in 1994 the older of the Neville brothers became a mainstay in the Manchester United back four for the next 16 years before hanging up his boots. Lifting the trophy twice during his Old Trafford career, the former England international can credit the competition with launching his career.
DF: John Terry
Before all misdemeanors and newspaper headlines Terry was once a fresh-faced youngster looking to make his way in the professional game. His big break came in the League Cup as he debuted for Chelsea against Aston Villa in October 1998. Terry would lift the trophy twice in 2005 and 2007 as he become an immortal figure for the Blues, captaining them through the most successful period in their history.
MF: Cesc Fabregas
His debut in a League Cup clash against Rotherham in 2003 saw Fabregas make history as Arsenal’s youngest player at 16 years and 177 days old. His performance in that game gave us all a glimpse as to the player he would come to be, and although he was never tasted success in this competition; he has been a runner up on two occasions.
MF: David Beckham
Arguably the most popular and well-known footballer on the planet began his phenomenal career as a substitute in a League Cup tie with Brighton 20 years ago, shortly before signing a professional contract with Manchester United. But despite never getting his hands on the trophy, the competition played a prominent part in his early years as a player.
MF: Steven Gerrard
It’s fair to say the League Cup has to be Gerrard’s favourite competition given he has acquired three winners medals during his 15 year career at Liverpool. The Anfield legend’s finest hour in the competition came against Manchester United in the 2003 final when his long-range deflected strike set the Reds on course for victory.
MF: Paul Scholes
Since making a goal-scoring debut in the competition, finding the net twice on his Manchester United debut against Port Vale in 1994, Scholes went on to win the competition twice in consecutive seasons during his time at Old Trafford.
FW: Robbie Fowler
33 goals in 44 games and two winners medals prove that Fowler is one of the greatest players ever to grace the League Cup. Making a goal scoring debut for Liverpool against Fulham in 1993, the ‘Toxteth Terror’ hit five in the return leg despite being just 18 at the time. His dipping volley in the 2001 final against Birmingham is also perennially attached to any Fowler highlight reel
FW: Giuseppe Rossi
Limited primarily to appearances in the League Cup during his Manchester United days, Rossi gained the experience that would help him later in his career, now forging a reputation as one of Europe’s top strikers at Villarreal.
FW: Emile Heskey
For a player much maligned throughout his career by pundits and fans alike, Heskey has enjoyed major success in the League Cup winning four winners medals that are evenly split between spells at Leicester and Liverpool.