Jason McAteer never got to lift the famous League Cup trophy as a winner during his on-field career but, in his words, the 1995 final made him as a player.A 24-year-old McAteer – born and raised in Merseyside - was in the Bolton Wanderers side that lost 2-1 to Liverpool in April of that year, but the next season he was wearing the red of the club he supported as a boy.
The showpiece final acted as a springboard for his career, earning him a move from the First Division to the top flight.
“I have bitter-sweet memories of the the League Cup but it made me,” he said. “As a young player aspiring to play for Liverpool, the competition put me in the shop window.
“The beauty of the cup competitions is drawing the big teams. If you are lucky, you come up against some world class players and if you play well against them or beat them, you make headlines and managers start watching you.
"When I was at Bolton we became a cup team very quickly. When you start winning games in the League Cup it becomes like a drug - you want to keep winning and playing against Premier League opposition.
“The 1995 final was classed as my trial game for Liverpool and it was a great honour and privilege to play at the old Wembley. The bitterness is that we [Bolton] lost 2-1.
“I do smile about getting to the final of the competition and although we lost I did get my hands on the trophy as I knew a couple of the Liverpool lads, like Jamie Redknapp and Phil Babb. So I did manage to touch the trophy, albeit in the wrong kit.”
The former Republic of Ireland international was re-acquainted with the silverware at the recent launch night of this season's Capital One Cup in Trafalgar square.
Speaking at the event, he touched on cup exploits of recent years, like that of Bolton in the 90s and Bradford in 2012/13, and he believes it has changed the attitude of top-flight managers and players in the competition.
“It’s always difficult to replicate what's been done. We all love a fairytale and it was unbelievable when Bradford knocked Arsenal out two years ago and eventually got to the final, but I think it’s a real tough ask for a lower league team to do it again.
“Losing to a lower league team puts tremendous pressure on a manager. The fans question the players' desire and there’s a lot of bad publicity, and then it ups the importance of their next league game, which highlights just how important the Capital One Cup is.”