Name and Format
Now, this knockout cup competition is known as the Carling Cup, but it has been called many things, such as the Milk Cup, the Littlewoods Cup, and the Worthington Cup depending on the sponsor. Next year, there is no sponsor, so the competition will return to its original name, the Football League Cup. It is also called the ‘fizzy-pop’ Cup a reference to when it was sponsored by Coca Cola and also to the fact that it is the least important of the three main domestic competitions in England – the other two being the League and the much more popular FA Cup. As this name suggests, the competition includes all teams playing in the four Football League divisions in England – The Premier League, the Championship, League 1 and League 2 – a total of 92 teams.
In the first round, teams from the three lower leagues compete. In the second round, teams from the Premier League join the competition. In the third round, teams taking part in European action join the tournament. All games, until the semi-finals (the sixth round), are played over one leg. The semi-finals are over two legs with the away goals rule and then penalties to decide a winner if the two matches end in a draw.
The final is played at Wembley.
History and statistics
The first cup game was played in the 1960-61 season. This was won by Aston Villa, who beat Rotherham 3-2 – the first six Football League Cups were played over two legs, and Villa came back from a first leg deficit of two goals to win the first ever Football League Cup.
The team with the most wins is Liverpool with seven, including four back-to-back trophies from 1981 to 1984. These four wins were all in extra time against West Ham, Manchester United, Tottenham and Everton. Aston Villa also enjoy this competition with five wins in their history.
With 49 goals in the competition (tied with Geoff Hurst) and five winners medals, Ian Rush of Liverpool is perhaps the most successful player in the League Cup, although Clive Allen from Tottenham Hotspur, with 14 goals in the 1987 competition, is also worth a mention.
Shocks and crackers
All cup competitions have their upsets, when minnows beat a bigger side. Two of the biggest giant-killing performances in the Football League Cup have to be first York City beating Manchester United in 1995 at Old Trafford 4-3 over the two legs in the second round. The Yorkshire side were struggling in the first division while United were flying high in the Premier League and although it wasn’t a full strength United side it did include players in their prime, such as David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Phil Neville. More recently, Premier League side Liverpool were embarrassed by Second Division side Northampton. The game ended 2-2, but the Cobblers knocked the Reds out on penalties.
Two games that stand out for drama are the 2005 final with Chelsea beating Liverpool 3-2. This game saw Chelsea’s new manager, Jose Mourinho, up against Liverpool’s new coach, Benitez. Despite Liverpool takin an early lead after a Riise strike in the first minute the Blues equalised, with Mourinho raising his fingers to his lips to hush the Liverpool fans, before his side went on to win the game in extra time. Another game with five goals plus an upset was the first game not played over two legs in 1967 and saw Queens Park Rangers of the third division stun West Bromwich Albion of the old first division 3-2. The lower league side sealed their victory after trailing 2-0 at half time – they scored three goals in 20 minutes to make sure they take their place in the rich history of the Football League Cup.
leg: one match (usually of two in a competition
came back: recovered from being behind on goals; take the lead after the other team takes the lead
back to back: one after the other; successive; repeated
tied: equal; with the same number of points or goals
giant-killing performance: when a small team beats a big (more famous and successful) team
flying high: being successful; playing well
in their prime: in their best form; playing their best football
the Cobblers: Northampton Town FC’s knickname
up against: playing; versus
to hush: to quieten
stun: shock; surprise