As second-rate football competitions go, the Carling Cup really was down in the dirt for rather a long while. It was like your mate going out with a girl and her bringing along a friend for you, and you realizing why your pal was continually going on about how personality matters more than looks. She’s not even that nice a person until you’ve had 10 bottles of liquor though. This was what the Carling Cup was.
These days it’s nothing of the sort.
Now it’s more like the girl no one took any notice of, until college when she suddenly grew some breasts, discovered contact lenses and made her way to the salon. The FA Cup takes on the persona of a super model that repeatedly has very successful plastic surgery, but the Carling Cup has the niche that the FA Cup can only dream of – it’s convenient for the “big four.”
Ever since the then Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho made it his first trophy in English football, it hasn’t been won by anyone but the London side, Manchester United, and Tottenham. The reason? The more important rounds occur over the winter months when the Champions League takes a break for a few months. In the past clubs may have seen it as a rest but these days it’s anything but.
It’s surprising to only see two of last year’s top four in the competition, but if you take into consideration that Chelsea were involved in a seven-goal thriller against Newcastle, which they lost 4-3, and Tottenham succumbed to Arsenal in extra-time they far-from wimped their way out of the competition.
In action tonight, North London club Arsenal host Wigan at the Emirates in what could well be a lesson in football from Arsene Wenger’s trusted youngsters. Wigan have been worse than poor at times this season and after losing the weekend’s relegation twelve pointer to West Ham look likely to be playing at a lower level next season.
Wigan’s conquerors have an even tougher task, welcoming table topping Man Utd to East London. If we were the front of Bet365’s advertising campaign, Ray Winstone, we wouldn’t bother making the trip to Upton Park. Discounting the snow that has fallen over large parts of the centre of the iGaming universe, the game is likely to be as one sided as a fight between paraplegic and Brock Lesnar. That’s even before you consider that West Ham are resting the inspirational captain of the ship, Scott Parker. It could be a long night for Winstone and chums.
Even more than the game itself, everyone is waiting to see what odds Winstone is offering at half time. They’re usually not too far off the mark, so the only question remaining is whether the East Ender will bet against his local lads?