As we approach this season’s League Cup Final it automatically provokes memories of our recent Wembley Way excursions, of the glory and relief of the 2008 success against Chelsea followed by the disappointing display against Man Utd a year later. It leads me back to the memories of two epic Sunday afternoons in a local pub near the Lane, since it was practically impossible to obtain a ticket on each occasion.
The matches were lengthy, edgy and tense battles, both entering extra time. Over the course of the games I experienced the whole gamut of emotions. Regardless of the name of the competition or its supposed value we wanted to win it desperately on each occasion, and the memory of winning in 2008 will always for me symbolise something more than just long-awaited silverware.
Football has always of course been such a popular sport for males as it brings out the competitive spirit in us and so even if we’re not afforded the opportunity to do battle on the pitch, we feel we do our competitive duty in the form of the verbal jousting with opposing supporters. This is at the heart of the sport; everyone’s opinion counts and this neither will nor should ever change. Yet the rise in the elitism deifying the Champions League these past fifteen years has provoked a contemporaneous snubbing of both the FA Cup and the Carling Cup in particular.
Now, I’m not suggesting the English sides in the Champions League change their strategy and play the top players every round of the Carling Cup. Of course these days what with the intensity of the modern English game and the plethora of games I understand the clubs rotating the top talent, particularly if the rival clubs are adopting such an approach.
However, this snubbing of the Carling Cup by fans (of any club) is simply misguided and foolish. When Harry was recently asked about the FA Cup he rightly conceded:
“You start the season in three competitions, most of us have only got a chance to win two of them, we’re not gonna win the league, most of the teams have got no possible chance of winning it so they’re playing for two cups”
Trophies are hard to come by, and regardless of their name, prize money or supposed prestige, they should be fought for when competing and certainly cherished and never forgotten when victorious. Supporters of the ‘big four’ may dismiss our achievements in February 2008, but we absolutely outplayed a full-strength Chelsea who opened the scoring with a Drogba free-kick.
I will never consider for one second that Chelsea were playing within themselves that day or weren’t highly motivated to win. They were simply outfought, outthought and outplayed by Spurs that day. We’re not at their level yet but that result was as a valid and important for us as any Champions League victory for Man Utd or Chelsea, and that sensation of winning the Cup will not be beaten.
I mean, of course we can dream up imaginatively perfect scenarios: Champions League final at Wembley against the Scum (Sol Campbell still hobbling around at 37 or 38 years old), 1-0 down at half-time. Two goals in the last 5 minutes, the winner being a Wilson Palacios thirty-yard stoppage time super-volley; now that would be nice. However, in its context that performance and result against Chelsea was as good as any I’ll ever experience and no amount of dismissal from other supporters will diminish or change that.
Of course we want to win more trophies and be in more finals, but I’ll never see that result as inferior to anything we may do in future. I won’t forget how good it was and I just hope I experience a similar euphoria again soon, and that we don’t have to put up with an eight or nine year gap between every trophy, be it Carling Cup, Champions League or otherwise.