Oh the Carling Cup. The competition so important we’re not arsed remembering what they changed the name to in 2012. It’s a tournament that occupies a strange place in the heart of the football public. It’s nice if you manage to go all the way, but not a huge deal if it goes nowhere. Kind of like trying to have sex with a six out of ten.
The strange attitude to the Capital One Cup isn’t confined to just fans (see – we did know what they changed to name to – we were just trying to give it the big one). Over the years, managers have let their feelings towards the competition be known through their team selections.
Arsene Wenger liked to used it to introduce youngsters to the first team, but then pretty much everyone kept buying his best players so his Carling Cup team pretty much became his first team. Brian Clough liked to make an effort for it, possibly just to boost that ego of his and his kind of protegé, Martin O’Neill also devoted a lot of time to it when his main task was to keep Leicester in the top flight.
Here’s a look at some of the Premier League teams in action tonight who have managers with notable records in domestic cup competitions – either for better or worse. If the manager hasn’t experienced the delights of the League Cup to date, then we’ve looked at his domestic cup results elsewhere for an indication of how he’ll approach tonight’s assignment.
MK Dons – 8/1 (H v Manchester United)
Throughout his long and at times over-rated career, van Gaal has treated domestic cup competitions with a Dutch shrug of indifference. He certainly won’t throw it away, but he’ll also give yoof a chance and not get to bothered if they’ve one less obligation to fulfill.
There are some cup high points on his CV. He won a Dutch Cup, Copa Del Rey and German Cup with Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively. But that’s three cups for about 12 seasons of management with some of the biggest teams in their countries. He’s likely to persist with the blooding young players tactic Fergie employed in the competition so United might be vulnerable to another disappointing result against opposition who are no doubt hungry to somehow make living in Milton Keynes enjoyable, even if it’s just for a few days.
Southampton – 17/20 (A v Millwall)
The Saints face both a potential banana skin and street riot when they go to Millwall tonight. Given he’s got two games of British football under his belt, Ronald Koeman hasn’t experienced the unique ambivalence of the Capital One Cup, but based on his track record, he treats domestic cups with respect.
In the course of his managerial wanderings, he has bagged a Dutch Cup with Ajax (2002) and a Copa Del Rey with Valencia (2008) and his win rate in domestic cups is up at a healthy 69%. That figure is somewhat inflated by the aforementioned Valencia victory, but it also indicates he had several decent cup runs elsewhere. If the Saints are upset at the Den, it’ll most likely be down to a bunch of foreigners being frightened by having angry cockneys shouting at them rather than the Dutchman’s lack of interest in the competition.
Gillingham 5/1 (H v Newcastle)
Alan Pardew has a pretty shocking record in the Milky Carling Cola Cup over the year. In his defence, it wasn’t always with top flight teams. Or if they were top flight teams, there were generally relegation scrapers. And/or Newcastle.
Pards has won exactly 50% of his league cup matches since his first foray into it with Reading back in 1999. While winning 50% of your league games wouldn’t be too shabby, in knockout football, it tends to mean you’re not going to go too far into the competition. We’re not saying the Newcastle boss doesn’t care out it, but it’s probably not something that he’s going to lose his precious beauty sleep over.
West Ham 4/7 (H v Sheffield United)
You’d think Big Sam would grab whatever silverware he could to massage his own sizeable ego, but as it turns out, it may be fruit too low hanging for him to expend a lot of energy in pursuit of plucking. If things fall the right way, he’s certainly not going to stifle a cup run, but if it doesn’t go to plan, he won’t sweat it. So cool is Sam.
He guided Bolton to the final of the Carling Cup in 2004 and despite relegation fears, got the Hammers to a semi-final hammering at the hands of Manchester City last season, but other than that, his history with the competition is mainly a tale of early exits and a lot of long balls. He’s got a win rate of 51% in the competition, indicating he generally doesn’t tend to advance too far into the Whatever They’re Calling It At The Time Cup. In fact, Sam was five years into his managerial career in England before he won his first league cup game – going W0 D0 L6 from the time he managed Blackpool in 1994 through to talking over at Bolton in 1999.
Even if he’s not too arsed about winning it, Big Sam could do with whatever brownie points he can get from the West Ham fans, so they’ll probably beat Sheffield United.
Paddy Power value
- Do bookies care about the Capitol One Cup? Paddy Power was best price on 67% of favourites last season. Skybet were best on… none.
- We were better odds on more favourites in the league cup last season than Ladbrokes (or Will Hill) and Bet365 combined.