Stamford Bridge was full and rocking under the floodlights. It was a rare opportunity to play a rival from the past in a fixture with much history.
More important it was an opportunity for manager Antonio Conte to blood several of the young talented players on the club’s books with little risk. After all the League Cup is clearly 4th on most peoples priorities.
Often forgotten among all this is the huge opportunity it was for many Chelsea supporters to actually watch the team play. Tickets to league cup matches are considerably cheaper than tickets for Premier League and European matches. Many season ticket holders thumb their noses at the League Cup allowing many supporters unable to get tickets a chance to go.
What it not to like and approve of. Add to that Chelsea romped home to a 5-1.
Imagine my surprise the next day when all I hear on TalkSport, Sky Sports News and even from several respected football journalists is what a load of rubbish the League Cup is; the supporters don’t like or want it; the clubs and managers don’t like it or want it and it all interferes with the wank-fest that is the increasingly over-bloated and over-hyped Premier League.
Whilst it may be true that supporters of other clubs have given it a swerve and many stadiums were half empty, perhaps this is an indictment of poor pricing and/or a recognition that the clubs have no intention of fielding a decent side or trying to win the competition.
I cynically wonder whether the hidden agenda is more sinister with the Premier League, full of self importance and needing to control everything akin to an evil empire hell bent on world domination.
But if the media can’t stick up for the supporters and the game then it shows how utterly clueless and out of touch they are. Perhaps they should pay to watch a game for once, spend a few hours in the pub before and after and remember what it is like to be a supporter rather than a world weary hack.
I can obviously only speak from a Chelsea perspective but we love the League Cup. Not least since it’s a competition that the club have always tried to win – in fact it was the first domestic cup competition we won in 1965.
For good reason the League Cup is known by supporters as the ‘People’s Cup’. Away allocations are increased to 15% often meaning that the away fans have an entire end at a ground which makes for a fantastic atmosphere.
The game is settled there and then with penalties deciding the outcome should the scores be level at full time, so no replay hangover.
For Chelsea in particular it always represents a chance to renew a past rivalry – think Leeds away in 2013 – or visit a new ground of a club lower down the pyramid. Fixtures like these are cherished by the supporters that I knock around with.
Should your team be lucky enough to get to the final the much fairer and less corporate/junket infested ticket allocation than the sadly diminished FA Cup mean that most supporters have a chance of attending and watching their team play in and hopefully win a Wembley final.
In other words, the media should take their heads out of their rear end and recognise that the League Cup is not an inconvenient interruption to the all pervasive and powerful Premier League, it is in fact an antidote to it.
Denying supporters the opportunity of seeing their team play, youngsters getting a chance to make their name, making it to a Wembley final and all for much less money than watching premier league football would be an absolute travesty.
Leave the League Cup alone!