On a dull, wet evening, after a trying and testing day at work, there is little better in life than to get home and put your feet up in front of the football. Whilst we have to wait until Wednesday of next week to see our boys in the replay on ITV, I switched on Sky Sports 1 to see if Bradford could overcome the odds once again and beat Premiership opposition, setting themselves up as the unlikeliest Capital One Cup finalists. Like most, unless it’s against my team, I love to see an underdog do well. Add to the mix that ex-Hammers Kyel Reid and Zavon Hines are turning out for a Bradford side who also have Blair Turgott on loan, and there’s no doubt who I want to win. Despite all this and being a massive football fan from birth, I’ve never really had any passion for the League Cup. Possibly because of memories that scarred me throughout my life.
In 1988/89 season we were under-performing. A campaign that eventually resulted in relegation offered us brief respite in the shape of a Littlewoods Cup run. Reigning top flight champions Liverpool were cast aside 4-1 with P*** I*** scoring twice whilst on our cup run. The long suffering fans were smiling in a season that had offered so little. Come the semi-finals, all that stood in the way of a cockney-knees up at Wembley was a two legged affair against Luton Town. Knowing we’d have to get a good lead in the first half to give us a cushion going into the away game on an artificial pitch, a convincing win was the main priority. Losing 3-0 at home and 2-0 away, this is where my hatred for this particular competition started.
The following season saw us get to the same stage in the competition. As a second-tier side we had been going through a season of change. Lou Macari had (briefly and incorrectly) been appointed manager and we faced same division opposition in the shape of Oldham Athletic. With the first leg of the semi being away this time, the sensible option was to contain the home side. Hopefully, get a decent enough result at Boundary Park and then take it into the second leg. Be competitive and we have every chance. History clearly dictates that the best ideas don’t always work and alas the first leg saw us go down 6-0. A 3-0 win in our favour only softened the blow slightly but yet again I had reasons to hate the League Cup.
Fast forward very quickly ten years. We’re out of the FA Cup to Tranmere, yet still in the League Cup. Get past Aston Villa and we face Leicester City in the semis. With just minutes left on the clock, Dion Dublin scores to put Villa 2-1 up. Seconds later, Paolo di Canio equalises from the spot. Crazy!!!!!!! Extra time sees no further goals and on penalties, West Ham march on. Miracle of miracles I’m beginning to like this cup. I’m even planning my trip to Wembley! And then it’s the bombshell… Manny Onoyinmi. Harry didn’t check, Manny didn’t say. Alas, he couldn’t play and shouldn’t have played. So West Ham replayed. And lost. And my hatred for this trophy deepened.
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And so on to Uncle Avram. Drawn at home to Manchester United in the Quarter Finals and we’re not expecting victory. I already hate this cup and thus turn down tickets. It’s gonna be cold, Grant is our boss and we’re against England’s best club side. Worse still, I’ve looked up the side and Spector plays. So, a 4-0 victory on a snowy East London evening has me kicking myself at my headstrong defiance at not going. Sure enough the semi-final was yet again as far as we got with a two legged defeat against Birmingham City. This season also culminated in relegation.
And so there are my reasons for hating the trophy. Whereas I know we’ve been finalists before, my memories, Liverpool and Man United aside have all been bad. With the bigger sides putting out ‘weaker’ sides, the cup also seems less of a priority. When we’ve had big FA Cup or Play-Off games in recent years, I’ve been shaking like the proverbial dog ‘passing’ razor blades. The League Cup hasn’t done that to me. If we were in the Final though, maybe it would.
However, let’s not take away from Bradford’s achievements, it’d be great to see them in the Final!
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