Pre 1959, England had the FA Cup as its only knock out competition.
In 1960, the FA introduced the Football League Cup. For some time, a well-respected, regarded and revered as an important piece of silverware. Somewhere around 2002, the perception of it, mainly from the top six, changed.
The reason was simple, with European football becoming more and more important, the League Cup was considered as a distraction, an unnecessary hindrance. The excitement of it dwindled and attendances started to decrease.
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The real change came when certain managers began fielding weakened or more politely 'inexperienced' teams in the early stages of the competition. Since 2002, managers often take the opportunity to name a mixture of youth, academy and reserve team players on match day in order for them to gain first team experience and also for regular players to re-energise and rest.
A case in point is Arsenal, who mainly field players from the development squad for this very purpose. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has for the past eleven seasons, due to their continued involvement in the Champions League, used the League Cup to give the opportunity to fringe players. Over time, clubs including Manchester City and Chelsea have followed suit.
But whilst the idea and intention, on the surface at least, is noble, surely questions need to be asked in terms of the due respect to the opposition.
The opposing team, often from outside the Premier League, field the strongest possible team they can in order to progress as far as they can. Lower division teams play more league games than any Premier League team yet still make the effort to win the match, often as a priority.
Yet this same respect is not afforded by the Premier League clubs.
One reason given by managers for resting their main players is so that they are able to concentrate and focus more on the European competitions, yet an English club has not won a European competition for three years.
This raises a key question, should teams in Europe be allowed an opt out of the League Cup each season?
It is clear that the League Cup is very much considered as the 'fourth' cup, behind European leagues, the Premier League and the FA Cup.
It is not a priority for the top six Premier League clubs but certainly is for teams outside of the top division.
Teams who do not consider the competition as important would arguably be better off not being in it in the first place, and lower league clubs would have the added advantage of still playing against top league opposition and gaining a better chance of advancing in the competition.
For the national game to evolve, strong consideration needs to be given to this workable, progressive solution.
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