It’s time for clubs to take advantage of the EFL Cup.
Posted by John Smith | Published on August 27, 2016
In recent years, the loathed EFL Cup (formerly known as the Capital One Cup) has slowly regressed in regards to irrelevancy. A majority of Premier League clubs use the competition as an opportunity to develop younger talent and familiarise them with first team football. Outside of England’s top division, teams that are a part of the lower leagues are known to follow a similar trend as the top clubs since they prioritise league competition over the opportunity of winning the trophy.
Despite the consistent sponsorship changes along with an ongoing lack of care, the trophy remains as England’s second biggest cup with remnants of history. Although many argue that the trophy takes up unnecessary game-time. Regardless of the negative responses overall towards the tournament, it’s not all “doom and gloom” for the winners since silverware as well as a place in the Europa League qualifying round are awarded to the winner.
As noted, there has unfortunately been a significant lack of teams taking cup competitions seriously and have failed to enjoy the success that follows. Outside of the top clubs in the Premier League, it is becoming increasingly rare for those outside of the profound teams to ever clinch a piece of silverware. The 2012/13 season was the last time for this trend to not happen as Swansea City and Wigan Athletic won the Capital One Cup and FA Cup respectively.
Swansea City are one of the best examples to observe in regards to exploring the benefits that follow after winning the entire competition. The 2012/13 Capital One Cup (now known as the EFL Cup) is arguably one of the most enticing tournaments to date as outcasts Bradford City defied all odds and reached the final to face unusual opponents in Swansea City.
Bradford shocked everyone by beating Premier League teams: Wigan Athletic, Arsenal and Aston Villa on their successful journey to the final whilst the Swans were triumphant against the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea on their journey to the Wembley. As for the final, Swansea were clearly the better team as they dominated the game and ended Bradford’s underdog story with a 5-0 win at England’s grand stage.
Although only winning 2 of their final 11 games following their triumph at Wembley, the Welsh side still finished in their best position possible in England’s top division since 1982 where they finished 6th in the First Division. The Swans also enjoyed a good run in the Europa League where their players gained vital experience playing against the likes of Valencia and making it to the final 32 of the tournament before being knocked out by Napoli. They also pocketed an approximate amount of £3.2 million for their efforts in Europe.
Considering the positives that were brought to Swansea following their triumph, it’s surprising how poorly the competition is treated. There are a variety of teams in England – not only those in the Premier League – who could find a lot of benefits for their respective club should they take the tournament more seriously, and perhaps win it.
An example of this includes the likes of Premier League teams: Stoke City, Everton as well as Crystal Palace. Taking into account that all three rarely have anything to challenge for every season, it’s surprising that none of the teams takes the trophy seriously since it could add a new piece of silverware to their club honours. The last time each of the teams enlisted won a majority trophy were in 2002 (Division Two Play-Off Winners); 1995 (FA Cup) and 2013 (Championship Play-Off Winners) respectively.
Outside of the top league, there are many teams in the lower divisions including the likes of: Blackburn Rovers, Leeds United, Swindon Town and also Barnsley who could all also enjoy the benefits of the tournament should they direct attention to it. Both the financial rewards on top of the experience playing against, and potentially beating, some of England’s top clubs would be vital for any smaller team as they look to earn promotion, or keep their place, in their respective league.
Away from the financial rewards and European football, winning the entire competition could also offer benefits to the winners in the long run. Giving consideration to the fact that every team has a goal to aspire towards come the end of the season, winning the EFL Cup can also offer the winners a much-needed boost in morale and improvement in form. With this boost, it could definitely become an asset towards the winners as they look to reach the goals that were set for them prior to the start of the season, and could also potentially help surpass their targets.
Chelsea perfected this during their title-winning 2014/15 season as they used their victory in the Capital One Cup in order to drive forward their charge for the Premier League title. Following their win in early March, the Blues successfully won their fifth English league title two months later with a win against Crystal Palace.
Considering all of the benefits that are brought to a club following a successful EFL Cup win, it’s surprising that so little clubs choose to take the tournament as a whole seriously. Now that the newly-branded competition has commenced, it’s time for more clubs to take the trophy seriously. Whether it’s to earn a spot in Europe, bring more money into the club or boost the overall morale of the team, there are benefits at hand for every team who goes all the way and wins the trophy.