All over the country, on Tuesday and Wednesday night, second and third string Football League and Premiership players pitted their wits against each other in this season’s ‘even more devalued than last season’s’ Capital One Cup Second Round – what used to be simply known as the Football League Cup. And as the rookie and first-team fringe players set off for the match, or tucked into their pre-game meals, tens of thousands of football fans took money out of cash points all over the land. Fans that these football matches ultimately exist for – games to entertain a paying public.
The League Cup has produced some memorable night’s in Brentford’s history, okay, we can’t boast a Final appearance as our League One rivals Bradford can after their heroics last season, but keenly contested games against Everton, Liverpool, Newcastle United, Tottenham, Forest [at their peak] and Swansea immediately spring to mind… some of those matches are still vivid despite them taking place thirty years ago. And some older fans than me will recall a narrow defeat at Old Trafford in the early 1970s. However, after Tuesday night’s defeat at Derby, I’m not sure I will ever go to a League Cup match ever again, and I wouldn’t blame you for not bothering either.
In my eyes, the trend that is permeating down from the Premiership, that sees managers pre-determining the probable results of certain fixtures, then picking a team accordingly, is tantamount to cheating the fans out of their hard earned money. I feel more than slightly deceived the morning after Derby if I’m honest – not because of the team that was picked necessarily – but it is evidently clear that most clubs aren’t taking these ties seriously, so why should I? It is the same with the FA Cup and, if it wasn’t for the ‘six players from the previous Saturday rule’, almost certainly the Johnsons Paint too.
Perhaps the manager of football clubs should sit down with the fans before the season and go through the fixture list so we can at least know which games are worth taking a half-day for, battling through the rush-hour traffic for, falling out with the missus over… or missing a League match for as it is chance to see your side play against a ‘bigger club’.
Ultimately, there will be financial repercussions, and/or rule changes to protect the trophy’s integrity – we will either be told that the Football League are unable to find a sponsor for the tournament next season, or the year after, which may see the Premiership teams threaten to withdraw all together, or football clubs will be forced to field a measurable quota of first team players. Either way, irreparable damage has been done to our game’s cup competitions.
The double standards are difficult to fathom too. Brentford fans were told before the season started that Uwe Rosler had asked for higher quality opponents so that his first-team squad were tested and ready for the season, or stretched against higher ranking players, yet a month later, a potentially morale-boosting Cup tie at Championship Derby County, a match that ten years ago would have been one of the highlights of the season, is deemed suitable only for the Development squad kids and the ‘Saturday team’ substitutes after the Bees’ boss made ten changes to the team that beat Walsall.
This isn’t a dig at Uwe, he has to do what he feels is right to ensure promotion, and I’m sure he will face awkward questions about ‘no cup run either’ if we fail to go up this season, but I certainly object to being patronized about our ‘excellent vocal support in the second half despite being 5-0 down’ etc, etc… That was gallows humour, we were simply laughing in the face of adversity, the mind-set we’ve had to adopt as Brentford fans down the years to make coming to watch games slightly justifiable. Basically, I expect more from Brentford these days with the squad we’ve assembled, or, at least more honesty.
Please, if we are drawn away in the FA Cup First Round and the club really can’t be arsed, then use the Loyalty Scheme to give us an indication as to whether it’s worth travelling to… If they’d said it was minus 25 points to those going to Pride Park… at least we’d have known not to fill the car up with £60 of petrol.