The League Cup isn’t taken seriously by many teams, but Man U’s exit at the hands of Championship strugglers Southend United raises a chuckle. I saw Southend lose to Wrexham at the Millennium Stadium a couple of years ago in the final of the LDV Vans Trophy (now the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy) and they looked a pretty good side to me then.
I also saw the highlights of Chesterfield holding Charlton Athletic to a 3-3 draw then cruelly lose the penalty shoot-out, meaning they couldn’t claim their third higher level scalp of the season.
It’s weird how pleased I feel for Southend and how gutted I feel for Chesterfield. I have no affinity for either club, but there is a sense of solidarity with real football teams who triumph over the increasingly mercenary self-proclaimed ‘elite’. Football at the top level is indelibly tainted by commerciality and I’m getting sick of money football.
In fact, my best experience of football this year was watching Welsh League side Dinas Powys narrowly scrape a 1-0 cup win with a last minute own goal. The football was rough and ready, the facilities ‘rudimentary’, and the half time tea was nigh on undrinkable. But that’s what football is all about – committed local lads playing for the love of the game and because they want to win; chatting to strangers about the game – the grounds you’ve been to, the games you’ve seen; fluke last-minute own goal heartbreaks...
So, in a world where whining multimillionaires strop out of the football club that gave them their big break because an offer of £55,000 a week is “disrespectful”, is there hope for football? I think so, but not in the boring Sky Sports world of processions to the Premier League Title or equally dull Champions League meetings between the same clubs every year. If I had the money and the vacation time, a trip to North Cyprus to watch the cup for ‘nations’ who aren’t recognised by FIFA might be just the tonic to banish midwinter blues.
Tibet v. Greenland, anyone?