The last couple of nights has seen the fourth round of the
Coca-Cola Cup produce some interesting results. Liverpool, who will
probably beat Middlesborough in a replay at worst, must now be strong
So what has gone wrong ? Every season we are told that the
Premiership is a class above all the other divisons and only a few team
are capable of winning a trophy. Clearly this is not the case this
season. Everton dumped out by York, Bolton thrashing Spurs, Leicester
beating Man Utd and so on. It is interesting that of all the teams that
had that "bye" early on only Liverpool remain.
It is because of this that the competition has fallen down. The
European clubs, quite rightly, didn't want more early season fixtures so
asked for a bye. I would have said fair enough, concentrate on Europe
BUT don't play in this competition. (I think the reason Newcastle died a
death last night is because next Tuesday is a far more important fixture
for them ). Instead Man Utd join late and field weaker sides because
Europe is still a priority. This undermines the strength of the
competition. Liverpool, by contrast, view it as a safety net and if they
can win it then a place in Europe is certain taking the pressure off them.
So we need a change. All rounds should be over one leg. Not to reduce
fixture pile up but to keep excitement levels high. The European clubs
should be given a simple option then of all or nothing. I think this
would work and liven up a competition that in the past few seasons has
died a death. The big teams would have to field full strength sides or
be heavily fined. No more nominal representation and doing honest fans
out of money.
I guess the long term problem with this competition is that it is run
by the Football League. With the Premiership run by the FA it is
possible that in the future some conflict may arise. Still for Liverpool
and the rest it now represents an easy path to Europe. Even Oxford or
Stockport must fancy their chances to some extent with one of
Middlesborough or Liverpool to go in the next round. I would like to see
Wimbledon win it. The reason they have survived thus far is their spirit
and passion to play the game. They out fought Luton and dug in against
Villa, they can go all the way. Such a spirit has been lacking from our
"bigger" clubs when in Europe. Wimbledon would show us all a thing or two.
Keep watching the Fizzy Cup. It may be going flat but it could
still generate a shock or two. My next article, when I get round to it,
will look at the state of the game of football in reference to fitness,
numbers of matches, and money...