The Agenda: It is time Newcastle United treated the League Cup with the seriousness it deserves

How a club that never wins anything can not try to win this competition is an infuriating mystery

League Cup final 76 when United met Manchester City, unfortunately they were beaten and Dennis Tueart scored the winning goal for Cit, inset manager Gordon Lee celebrates reaching final
League Cup final 76 when United met Manchester City, unfortunately they were beaten and Dennis Tueart scored the winning goal for Cit, inset manager Gordon Lee celebrates reaching final

That the League Cup today holds no importance for any club who believe themselves to be important is one of the great myths of English football.

A quick glance at the list of the last ten winners dispels the notion the Capital One Cup doesn’t matter any more.

Going back to 2005, the trophy has gone to Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham, Manchester United two years in a row, Birmingham City, Liverpool, Swansea City and Manchester City.

There are two names which stick out there.

Birmingham, who beat Arsenal, were a bit of a one-off and were relegated that same season, a fact many chairmen cling to when they let it be known an early cup exit would not be the worst things which could ever happen.

While Swansea-Bradford was not a final many would have picked out, the Welsh side had a superb season and are now an established Premier League club.

The prize money is pocket change for every club mentioned above, even Bradford.

The winners get to play in the Europa League, which is a competition nobody genuinely wants to be involved in.

However, given most of the winners over the last decade have been contenders for the Premier League title and even the Champions League (Chelsea were finalists in 2008 when Spurs beat them in the final as were Manchester United the following year when they won the competition) it does beg the question why other clubs don’t seem to want to at least have a go at reaching a Wembley final and all the fun that entails.

Which naturally brings us to Newcastle United who begin their campaign in the Capital One Cup, as it has been known since 2012, at League One Gillingham.

Given Manchester City, who beat Newcastle early on last year, felt they had it in them to compete in the League Cup, the Premier League, Europe and the FA Cup, why can’t Alan Pardew’s squad cope with a few extra cup ties and their league campaign?

Manchester City are on a different planet, of course, but this does not automatically mean Newcastle shouldn’t be able to cope with two competitions.

Surely, the squad Pardew has put together would not crumble under the demands of finishing in the top ten AND having a bit of a go in the League Cup.

This competition has not been kind to Newcastle United.

Whether it has been known as the League Cup, Milk Cup, Littlewoods Challenge Cup, Rumbelows Cup, Coca-Cola Cup, Worthington Cup, Carling Cup or the present day incarnation, United’s results have been poor.

Their best performance was losing in the final to Manchester City in 1976. It is high time something was done about this - and it starts with beating Gillingham.

Their players will be up for it and they know they are not going to win the thing.

So if Newcastle turn up and don’t treat this match as anything other than the most important thing in their lives, then they are asking for trouble - and they will get it.

Gillingham lost 4-1 to Barnsley at the weekend, so they are no world- beaters and yet their captain Danny Kedwell believes a shock could still be on the cards.

He said: “They say it’s good to have a game straight away after a defeat like this and you never know, there could be an upset.

“We have to make sure we prepare right, get it right on the training ground.

“Newcastle a Premier League side, they’re going to be a decent team but we have to make sure we go into it as though it’s a normal league game. I don’t think there are a lot of clubs who like coming to Priestfield. It’s a tight pitch, the place can be buzzing.

“We scored an early goal and they didn’t like that, so we have to make sure if we do go ahead we make it as difficult as we can for them.”

This is a massive game for Newcastle United and in particular the manager.

Because if this competition is good enough for Champions League finalists, then it’s sure good enough for his club.

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Mark Douglas
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