Four-time League Cup winner Alan Kennedy looks ahead to Round 1
I’m slightly biased as I was lucky enough to win the competition four times, but I really do love the League Cup - or the Capital One Cup as it will be known for the next four seasons, of course.
It always has been and still is a great competition, but my own love affair with it was a slow burner because I suffered heartbreak when losing in the 1976 final for Newcastle United against Manchester City.
However, between 1981 and 1984 I played in all four Wembley finals with Liverpool and won the lot of them, scoring in the 1981 clash with West Ham United, and again in 1983 when we beat Manchester United underneath the Twin Towers. They were fabulous days, and it’s a period of my career which I will always enjoy reminiscing.
It’s funny but one of my happiest memories associated with the League Cup is filming a TV advert for the competition’s then-sponsors the Milk Board.
They made up a song for us to sing and I have to say we were absolutely terrible - plain awful. Our striker Ian Rush was the worst crooner of the lot, so we had him up at the front drinking a pint of milk, while the rest of us had a crack at singing alongside him and we were in stitches of laughter all afternoon.
I’ll let you into a secret here too; if you ever hear the song or see it on the internet, our voices have been doctored a fair bit. If they didn’t digitally enhance us, they’d never have been able to use it.
As a competition, we took the League Cup very seriously at Liverpool and I’m so glad that we did. Our manager Bob Paisley would always pick his strongest XI and it worked a treat for us, as the extra games helped to improve our unity as a side, while we also progressed closer each time to an unforgettable day out at Wembley.
For me, the 1981 competition was pivotal. I’d been injured early on in the season but I got my chance back in the first team in a League Cup tie, which we won, and from then on I stayed in the side scoring in the 1981 final, and then again later on that season in the European Cup Final. I believe that playing well in the League Cup gave me the impetus to experience so many more great days and nights on the pitch.
Of late, it has been frustrating to see certain managers deciding not to take this competition as seriously as they might, but I do feel that the tide has turned in recent years. Nowadays, clubs appear very determined to win it and that resurgence is brilliant to see.
Last season, Liverpool went all out to win it that’s for sure, and although they had to work ever so hard to do so, I’m sure every player and supporter will tell you it was completely worthwhile.
Who doesn’t want to play at Wembley and lift a major trophy?
The beauty of the Capital One Cup is that you really don’t know who will go on to lift the trophy - it’s wide open, and that’s the way it’s always been.
Underdogs often rise to the occasion and as we witnessed with Birmingham City in 2011, and Cardiff City last season, they can really ruffle some big name feathers.
OK, I didn’t lose against too many giant killers with Liverpool but some of the matches we played against the likes of Burnley and Walsall are still fresh in my mind as they were monumentally tough encounters.
This season I quietly fancy Liverpool to go all the way again. As I know myself, winning trophies breeds confidence and even though they have a new manager with fresh ideas, the players themselves will firmly believe they can pull off a repeat. They have to be one of the favourites.
Newcastle United are another side who I fancy to do well. Alan Pardew is building a terrific team and he will desperately want to take them to the next level by lifting some silverware in 2013. The ability is there, and so is the passion. Rest assured, the Magpies will give every ounce of effort they have to win this season’s Capital One Cup.
This weekend sees the start of the 2012/13 competition, and I think it’s lovely that it’s kicking off the season. It’s unusual to have League Cup matches played on a weekend before The Football League begins, but that just adds to the excitement in my opinion.
Stand-out ties include Fleetwood Town against Nottingham Forest, which could be a testing clash for the four-time winners, a tasty derby between Blackpool and Morecambe, as well as a real humdinger at the County Ground where Swindon Town entertain Brighton & Hove Albion. Those two teams are on the rise, and I can see them both enjoying excellent campaigns. In the 80’s they were big clubs, and I sense they have lofty ambitions to return to those heights.
My message to all the sides involved in first round action is simple; give it everything and go for it.
The crowds might not always be huge in the early rounds but in football you never know where a victory may lead you. A Capital One Cup run can hand you money-spinning nights against Premier League giants, great entertainment, a winning habit and the platform to enjoy a superb league season.
I love the Capital One Cup and so should everyone else. It’s going to be a fantastic competition this season and I’ll be with you throughout to discuss and savour it in all its glory.
Good luck to everyone in First Round action this week.