Do puny crowds at recent Carabao Cup ties show that interest is at such a low that the competition itself could end?
There was something gut-wrenchingly grotesque as a sporting spectacle that only 24,000 randomly-placed spectators attended Tottenham’s Carabao Cup match against Barnsley, in the 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium.
Wembley is not a true home for Tottenham of course and 24,000 is not a small crowd in isolation – many clubs would be grateful for such an attendance – but a sparse national stadium is a cutting sight to behold.
Arsenal’s 44,000 at home to Doncaster was a more significant gathering, but less so given that it’s 16,000 short of capacity. Selhurst Park, ahead of Crystal Palace’s tie with Huddersfield Town (above), looked practically empty shortly before kick-off.
Huge swathes of unsold seats and shrill echoing cries from lone supporters are not the stuff of dreams and will not have been the hook that drove Thai energy drink Carabao to sponsor the competition.
The League Cup has a strange existence in English football. A second domestic trophy behind the more attractive FA Cup, the League Cup has long been the mildly-uglier younger brother.
Few clubs seem to want to be associated with taking it seriously and many appear to want to get knocked out as early and as painlessly as possible.
Yet the League Cup is still won mostly by top sides, with Manchester United and Manchester City hogging it lately, viewing it as a useful stepping stone to sharpen up a title challenge.
Given the path to Wembley and the opportunity to earn European football from winning the League Cup, it’s an annual wonder that clubs without silverware for generations don’t make it a sly priority.
Nobody’s publicly up for the League Cup? I’m sure Newcastle United fans for example wouldn’t complain about winning their first significant trophy since 1969. Hang on, they’re out already.
(Photo courtesy of @JohnBrewinESPN)