Rant of the Week: Importance of domestic cups

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The FA Cup has been going for 143 years, the League Cup for 54. Whereas the Premier League and Champions League have both gone under rule changes, name changes and formation system changes, these two competitions have remained the same (bar sponsorship).

However, both are in danger of becoming competitions which no one is that bothered about. I wrote a piece in January called ‘Has the FA Cup lost it’s magic?‘, whereby I looked at managers’ views towards the competition after comments made by Paul Lambert about the need for it.

This time, although glancing over views of managers and how they select their sides, I am more concerned about how fans view the League and FA Cup.

I think, especially for lower league clubs, that domestic cups are the perfect opportunity to bring morale to the squad, and with Premier League sides fielding weaker sides in these games – the chance to progress further and further is increasing.

Fielding weaker teams and giving youth a chance is becoming more and more popular with managers, especially in the League Cup, and I have no problem with this.

Brendan Rodgers' gave youth a chance on Tuesday and debutant Jordan Rossiter grabbed a goal
Brendan Rodgers’ gave youth a chance on Tuesday and debutant Jordan Rossiter grabbed a goal

It is a great opportunity to give young players a taste of competitive football, and many players are handed their first team debuts in these competitions. Fans can also see their team’s future talents, and many impress to implement themselves into the senior squad.

That I don’t mind as it works for all players – those who feature week in week out in the league have a chance to rest, and teenagers can get themselves into the managers thoughts if they play well.

I am ranting about how fans rank domestic cups, degrading them as ‘tinpot’ trophies or pointless silverware – not so much the FA Cup, but the importance of the League Cup has come in question numerous times this season by supporters, including this week when the third round took place.

Straight away you have to look at the prize for winning this cup. Qualification into the Europa League for the following season would be a dream in my opinion. Teams such as Birmingham City and Swansea City, who have both found success in this competition in recent years, wouldn’t be able to get into Europe any other way – it is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Even though it means more games, I would love Reading to play European football, something I cannot imagine happening, but something which could occur as easily as winning the cup. OK, maybe it’s not that easy!

For a club like Reading, whose only domestic piece of silverware was the Full Members Cup in 1988, winning the FA Cup or League club would mean the world, as it would to any other lower league club.

Birmingham played Europa League football in  2011-12, all thanks to their League Cup win the season before
Birmingham played Europa League football in 2011-12, all thanks to their League Cup win the season before

Finally I come to fans that abuse competitions as soon as they are knocked out. A prime example of this is Manchester United supporters when they were embarrassingly beaten 4-0 by MK Dons in the second round of the League Cup this season.

Reactions included things like: “it’s only a tinpot trophy”, “who cares, it’s the League Cup”, “I didn’t want to win it anyway”. Why wouldn’t you want to win a trophy? I don’t understand why not winning a piece of silverware can be seen as positive. I was gutted when Reading were knocked out by Derby County earlier this week.

Furthermore, I can guarantee that if United had won at stadium:mk that night, their fans would have wanted to go on and win the trophy and have confidence they could do so – unless they later got knocked out of course.

But this doesn’t just apply to Red Devils supporters. It’s a cry out to every football fan around Britain. Support your team in every game. League, cup or friendly. Every game is important and from might point of view, one of the greatest things in football is the feeling of lifting a domestic trophy. I just hope I see that soon for my club…

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