In English football, the League Cup has always been way down in the pecking order. The Premier League is rightfully the biggest cheese, although it is somewhat diminished by the number of potential winners coming from an ever smaller pot. Next comes the FA Cup - still maligned by some sections of the football community, but probably the most loved by all fans - wherein supporters of all teams can dream of a cup run, and maybe of going all the way. And then we have the League Cup, trailing in a distant third.
Compared to the other English football pots, the League Cup is a relatively new kid on the block. Curiously, its genesis in 1960/61 had much to do with floodlights (as well as with generating more money, of course). The idea was that with the growing spread of floodlights, clubs could play midweek evening games. Not every club agreed (too many games - sound familiar?!) - plus some clubs still lacked floodlights - but there was no denying that the Cup was a nice little earner, especially for the smaller clubs.
Added to its lack of history compared to its older and bigger siblings, part of the problem with the League Cup is that it has sold its soul for the corporate shilling. Since 1981/82, it’s been variously known as the Milk Cup, the Littlewoods Challenge Cup, the Rumbelows Cup, the Coca-Cola Cup, the Worthington Cup, the Carling Cup and the Capital One Cup. Theold cup even disappeared for a while when sponsors first came on the scene, but thankfully sense was seen, and the beautiful three-handled trophy is now back where it belongs.
FIVE FUN FACTS
Since 1990, the Man of the Match in the final has been awarded the Alan Hardaker Trophy. Ben Foster has won it twice, with Manchester United (2009) and Birmingham City (2011).
Today’s winning players receive medals, but in the past they used to be presented with a much handier tankard.
Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest were the first side to retain the trophy in 1978/79.
The League Cup is also known as the “Sir Joe Richards Trophy” after the FA President who commissioned and paid for the unusual three-handled trophy.
Ironically, Liverpool - who have won the trophy a record eight times - chose not to play in the tournament between 1962 and 1968. Entry only became compulsory in 1971/72.
Extract from “The World’s 50 Greatest Sporting Trophies” by Jerry Gardner, just published, and available from www.publishpromote.com, cost €15 (about £13) including p&p.