AFTER recording yesterday’s episode of The Coach Home, I had a chat with big Blue Dave Downie about Everton’s League Cup tie against Middlesbrough tonight. He was desperate to get up there, but couldn’t find a ticket for love nor money. The Toffees have an allocation of 4,900 for a midweek cup game 142 miles away and spares are as rare as a Rob Jones goal.
It’s a big game for Everton. A cup quarter-final. The club which has been champions of the England nine times, and FA Cup winners five, haven’t won a trophy for 20 years. Goodison has turned into a trophy-free zone, and they are well aware of this — and not just because Liverpool fans make a song and dance of it every time we go to Goodison. In fact, one year we took a cake.
Liverpool fans aren’t the only ones to point out that Everton’s trophy cabinet is more sparse than the Main Stand during stoppage time. Even EasyJet are making digs at them now.
Oh how we laughed. But should we? The Liverpool trophy polishers have hardly been overworked themselves in recent times. Since our last FA Cup win in 2006, Liverpool have only won one League Cup, under Kenny Dalglish in 2012. That’s almost 10 years with just the one trophy to count on. Not a lot for a big club really, is it?
The period since our last league title is often called a “barren” one, but that isn’t really the case. Sure, the 90s were rubbish, especially considering the decade that came before. After our last league title in 1989-90, Liverpool won just one League Cup and one FA Cup for the rest of the decade.
But 2001 to 2006? I’m not having that wasn’t brilliant. A period when Liverpool won two FA Cups, two League Cups, one UEFA cup and a big massive shiny European Cup that we got to keep forever. A period when we had loyalty cards for bars and hotels in Cardiff, and passports with stamps to Istanbul, Dortmund, Barcelona, Rome and more. A period when Liverpool fans had as much fun as anyone in the world, even with the league title missing.
This period of success was kick started by a League Cup win against Birmingham City.
Who knows how 2001 would have ended up had Liverpool lost that shoot-out? Maybe it all would have turned out fine. But winning is a habit that Liverpool struggled to shift in that time, no matter how many of those big games they went down in. Cardiff certainly felt like home; a place where we, on the whole at least, won games of football.
Making Wembley feel the same should be an aim for the club now. Making Liverpool a club that wins things a priority. The earlier the better for Jürgen Klopp. The League Cup may not be the biggest trophy, both literally and metaphorically, but it is the first in the season you can win. It can lay down a marker. We might have been messing about for a while, but we’re now a club that wins things. Remember how good this feels? And we’re only in February. Let’s carry on and have some more.
Jose Mourinho has won two League Cups as Chelsea manager. His side won the title both years. He’s a manager who more than most understands the importance of a feeling around a football club. A man who was able to turn Chelsea from a rich club to a winning one. Win hard and win early. Let everyone feel how it feels. Make everyone start to expect it, but know how hard you have to work to achieve it.
I understand the argument about focusing on the league, that freshness is important. But league titles rarely come out of nowhere. In 2013-14, had we won it, it would have been an anomaly.
When Manchester United broke their “barren” period of 26 years without a league title, they did so the year after winning the League Cup, two years after winning the Cup Winner’ Cup and three years after winning the FA Cup. They slowly got into a winning habit. Players trusted each other more. Closer bonds were formed.
A big club can only go so long without winning trophies before you are in danger of that habit drifting away. Arsenal recognised this two years ago and Wenger took the FA Cup much more seriously, winning the last two tournaments having not even qualified for the final in the eight years before, and having seen a weakened team go out at home to Blackburn Rovers the previous year.
The wins took pressure off the manager, and gave people belief that they could act as a springboard to greater things. They may not. Arsenal might just finish third or fourth again. But they spoke confidently at the start of the season of being title challengers. In the same way a League Cup win this season for Liverpool might not mean we are dancing round St George’s Hall in May.
But it might give us the belief that even if we can’t get over the line this time, we are getting closer.
And, besides, it all gets you out of the house.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
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I’ve been critical of the League cup (and Europa) in the past, yet I can hardly contain my excitement about tomorrow. So what’s changed for me?
It’s quite simple really. If we finish 5th, 6th, 7th, etc then in hindsight, winning a cup doesn’t mean that much. I suppose I don’t want to celebrate it like Wigan did (or Everton would) and re-enforce that feeling that we’re drifting away from being a big club. As stated many times on here, I need us to be in the elite or my head falls off. In the past, I’ve looked at these cups as endangering our league position and have become weary of them. Winning the LC under Kenny was good. Great day and all that, but it didn’t stop me feeling like we were a bit shit still and our league form had suffered after the win, which is always detrimental to signing new players, whether the CL cash or the players wanting to play in it.
The difference now is Klopp. I’ve got so much faith in him that I’m not expecting us to finish anywhere near 5th, 6th, or 7th. Take the worst case scenario and say, we win the LC, the Europa and the FA Cup but only finish fourth. That’s still excellent progress and puts us back among the elite too. The 3 trophies will emphasise, even more, that we’re on the way up again. Trophies and top 2 would put out even more of a statement. So, I’ve had some psychological barrier that cups only count if we finish in the top 4 at least. Anything else and I feel we’re underachieving still. The difference now is, I feel like we’re a big club again. Any of the cups will re-enforce that in my mind (on top of a probable league title, especially).
So, I completely agree. Big clubs win cups and that’s what we are with Klopp.
Liverpool can’t afford to be snooty about the Europa or anything else. The concept that midweek cup ties detract from the real objective of a title challenge is presumptions and invalid
Presumptuous? Invalid? Explain how you’ve reached that conclusion? There’s plenty of evidence to the contrary.
Did you read the article on here recently with the interview with the guy who studied league form after a Europa game? I think he knows what he’s talking about and backs it up with evidence.
Look at the League Cup. The reason I’m all over the LC this year is, admittedly, because of the belief Klopp’s inadvertently instilled in me but it’s also because of a belief that we have the squad strong enough to cope with it this year. The last 2 winners also had a squads strong enough to win it.
5 years ago Birmingham won it. In their last 13 games before and after the final they only won twice and got relegated. 4 years ago it was us. At the start of the calendar year we hoped a push would get us in the top 4 then in the 8 games either side of the final we took 5 points. We still finished 8th which tells you that was our worst period of the season by a mile. 3 years ago Bradford reached the final. They made the play offs that year, so 5 points from 8 games leading into the final clearly wasn’t their best spell either. 2 years ago Sunderland made the final. After their semi final they went on a run where they took 2 points from their next 9 games yet they didn’t go down, so clearly that wasn’t their best spell of the season either. Last year Spurs were in the final in the first week of March. Look at their league form prior to the end of the first week in March. Their last 17 games were P17 W11 D3, L3. After the first week in March until mid may it dropped to P8, W2, D2, L4. They ended up finishing fifth. It probably cost them a CL place and qualified them for the Europa to perpetuate the cycle of finishing 5th.
The saying ‘the curse of the League Cup’ may not be true but to say it’s presumptuous is wrong. There’s evidence to back it up and there’s research been done to see the effect of the Europa League on teams. Maybe these brilliant researchers are all right and it’s you that’s being presumptuous.
Agreed with your views…We can’t choose what to win and what to use as excuse…
Win everything there is…Prioritizing A,B or C is just excuse. we have big squad…and that’s for coping with fixture like up..
except 2 full backs, we have enough covers in ALL other areas…
Win all 4 we are still in if possible.
Win all she groups..
Even win Liverpool branded academy teams and tournaments in.such places as Poona India…
We are Liverpool, not some Mickey Mouse club
Every game we play is important. Every longer-term goal we set entails setting shorter-term goals. Achieving the former requires first achieving the latter.
Setting longer-term goals and achieving them by setting associated shorter-term goals and achieving THEM is what “winning” is all about. Nothing succeeds like success, nothing cements or inculcates a “winning mentality” than actually winning, accomplishing the goals one sets.
With a new manager (and what a manager he is) joining us while the season is already underway, it is even more important that NO GAME whatsoever is treated as ‘useless’ or ‘meaningless’.
I don’t think anyone is suggesting we throw a league cup or Eurpoa game. But I do think there is wisdom in prioritising games.
To win against Southampton and because of the fatigue to key players, we drop three points at Newcastle would be tragic.
That’s not to suggest that one can predict outcomes (or guarantee results in the following game by the selection of the team in this game), but pacing players, making sure the match winners are fit and ready for the league games, is smart not snobbish.
Plus, the league cup provides the opportunity to play into form other players, who in turn will push for priority games in the league.