A collective fiasco of record proportions for England’s second tier

·6-min read
<span>Photograph: John Walton/PA</span>
Photograph: John Walton/PA


The three-handled piece of garbage now known as the Rumbelows Littlewoods Woolworth Debenhams Milk Eggs Yogurt Lard Carabao Panda Pops Turps Fags Booze Cup was established in 1960 by Football League mandarin and notorious Europhobe Alan Hardaker, in an effort to deflect interest away from the midweek glamour of Uefa’s recently minted Big Cup. But the gambit backfired spectacularly. Nearly all the biggest clubs of the day refused to enter, and lower-league sides enjoyed disproportionate success during the early years. Rochdale of the old Fourth Division made it to a final; third-tier clubs QPR and Swindon actually won one. As did another team not used to lifting silverware, Don Revie’s Leeds, but let’s not muddy the water here.

All of this sounds great, of course, not least because it would have got right on the end of Hardaker’s xenophobic tit. But with the glorious exceptions of Aston Villa in 1971 and Bradford City in 2013, the days when clubs from the lower two divisions of the League could consistently make the showpiece have long gone. Or so it seemed until now, because 14 of the 19 sides from the Championship who played their first-round ties this week have made a right show of themselves by getting knocked out. Throw in Millwall’s defeat at Cambridge last week, plus one of West Brom and Sheffield United being sure to go after the final whistle of the round’s last tie on Thursday night, that’ll be 16 second-tier clubs cashiered from this year’s tournament at the first hurdle in disgrace. Oh clubs! We hardly knew ye (x16).

Related: Carabao Cup: Sheffield Wednesday gain revenge by knocking out Sunderland

This sorry state of affairs seems to have come about as a result of a few managers cosplaying as Arsène Wenger circa the turn of the millennium, and making more changes than was possibly wise. Wigan and Luton both named completely new starting XIs before their defeats against Fleetwood and Newport, while only one Cardiff player kept his shirt from last weekend’s Championship fixture, and they were spanked 3-0 for their sauce. Admittedly by a Pompey side who had made six changes themselves, but again, let’s not confuse the general thrust of the issue with facts.

Only six Championship sides saved themselves, so even though Burnley and Watford top up the number when they enter in the second round, this is a collective fiasco of record-breaking proportions for English football’s second tier. Or, put another more positive way, a record number of sides from the third and fourth tier have made it to the second round. So yes, the big boys of the Premier League are about to enter the fray … but as you can be sure plenty of top-flight tinkermen will also be trying on Arsène’s clothes for size, the chance of, say, Bradford or Rochdale making another final isn’t half as unlikely as it seemed just a couple of days ago. Statistically speaking, anyway.

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