Live Thoughts, 24th February 2012

by Timothy Masters

carling cupThere has been a slight discussion recently over the timing of cup-finals, and how it can be a good or bad thing to have other matches on the same day, in particular relating to the FA Cup. This weekend sees the first final of the year, and the first bit of silverware (if you ignore bleatings about the Community Shield), to be contested by the newest pariahs in town, Liverpool, and the long-time hosts while Wembley was being reconstructed, Cardiff.

Admittedly the Carling/League Cup comes quite early in the season, and it would be hard to ensure it went out unencumbered by any sort of rival event, but to schedule the North London derby on the same day seems spectacularly stupid. Regardless of the fact it kicks off earlier in the day, once you’ve factored in the Six Nations the day has become so suffused with sweat, hair-gel and diving that even Des Lynham might sit down with the crossword instead.

The reality is that most sides talk the Carling Cup down until they are in the semi-final, and that has not been the case on very few occasions. This, luckily, is one, and Kenny Dalglish has made no bones about the fact he wants to see ‘Liverpool’ back on some silver sooner rather than later, regardless of how big that bit of silver may be. We know Cardiff will want to win, with some of their players not expecting another chance at such a big game, so it has everything you’d want, really/.

With all this in mind, then, why is it not being given a wider platform? Money is the sad answer, as usual. The men at the top of the game have deliberately devalued anything that may represent competition for their cash cows recently, so while the Premier League and Champions League line the pockets of sleazy Eurocrats, the Europa, FA and League cups are ignored, and the Cup Winners Cup destroyed.

The same reason is behind such ‘innovations’ as the Champions League and Europa League groups stages, to ensure the biggest teams are not a risk of going out early (and therefore hitting the slice of TV money that is pocketed by the greasy types in charge of the FA/UEFA), and many other changes, not least the reluctance to give players a fair game and introduce goal-line technology, but on Sunday all that will be forgotten. Gerrard, Bellamy and Dalglish will all want this as much as anyone, except maybe their opponents, and no amount of UEFA slime can tarnish that.