Within minutes of Everton getting ‘back on track’ by reaching the 4th round of the League Cup, the mood was somewhat tempered by the news of an away draw against Chelsea.
Our quest for silverware had taken a knock without a ball being kicked. 1994 was the last time the blues beat Chelsea in 90 minutes at Stamford Bridge and given our last two results there, prospects for the elusive win don’t look too promising for the near future either. If we are going to win the cup we may as well play a big hitter in the early rounds while they are still ‘squad rotating’ but a home draw would have been nice. That said, we need to improve substantially first.
Now my real gripe. So Jose Mourinho thinks we should ditch the league cup to ease fixture congestion does he? Genius! So who will that benefit? His comments continue the devaluing of football which is perpetuated by the media. Coming 4th is now seen as more important than winning the League Cup or the FA Cup. Only last week while listening to Talksport, the so called ‘experts’ were whining about how Arsenal have failed because they hadn’t qualified for the champions league even though they have won the FA Cup three times in recent years.
What would we give for an FA Cup win, or even a League Cup win? Who has decided that winning trophies is not important anymore? The same commentators whinge every year about how the FA Cup has been devalued and what do we do to make it what it once was, the greatest Cup competition in the world. They complain without a hint of irony, yet they appear unable to see their own part in the problem.
More sinister for me is the patronising message it sends out to virtually every club in the league… except for the ‘Sky teams’. The benefit of being in the small gang of Sky clubs is immeasurable. Guaranteed that nearly all their matches will be televised not only gives them extra income and publicity but free advertising into the bargain. A couple of stats for interest shows the issue. The last time Manchester United were NOT televised in the FA Cup was 2005, that is 58 consecutive matches. Liverpool last season had 29 of their 38 league games televised live. For a team that had finished 7th the previous season and managed 4th last season, that is incredible. The ‘Sky club’ which famously had four members, now has six since Man U and Arsenal inconveniently dropped out of the four.
Calls by Jose Mourinho follow a yearly succession of calls for ditching of the league cup, abandoning FA cup replays and other suggestions in order to help teams in European competition and ease fixture congestion. No! It’s to help their own clubs line their pockets and create a monopoly. Rarely if ever do we get calls from those managers to cut the games in Europe, oh no, it would hit them in the pocket. Everton have fallen foul of the hideous fixture congestion this season with the ridiculous qualifying rounds starting, in some cases before the schools break up for the summer holidays. It’s when you realise that in the (at the time of writing) unlikely event of us reaching the final we will have played 19 games. Half a season on top of the season we already have. Yet you ask any blue if it’s more important to win a trophy or finish 4th I reckon the trophy would win most if not all the time.
Successful teams always have fixture congestion, we long for it. It’s equals success. But to ask for whole competitions to be ditched is a relatively modern phenomenon. The managers bleat that it would ease fixture congestion while ignoring the fixture congestion created in Europe to benefit the elite few. At least if they were honest and admitted the domestic cups weren’t worth it because they aren’t earners would be a start.
I have an idea, why not cut the amount of European games instead? Radical! It’s not a new idea as I’ve heard many fans of different clubs suggest this. As follows…
Make the Champions League for the champions! No 2nd, 3rd, 4th places up for grabs. It would cut games instantly. Or what about making the competition purely knockout? Even with the top 4 qualifying it immediately save 4 fixtures for qualifiers. Stop allowing Champions League failures into the Europa League which both rewards both failure and adds two pointless games. Then the group stages abandoned in the Europa league would save 4 games so even though Everton had to qualify, we would save 6 games already and for non qualifiers, only 9 games to win the competition. More than it takes to win either the FA or League cups.
All of these ideas have been suggested in one way or another on radio phone ins and social media but none from the managers of the ‘Sky six’. I wonder why? Money and the quest for money takes precedent over winning trophies in modern football. The fans of most clubs want trophies but the management want money! Until they get their priorities in line with the fans they will continue to misleadingly bleat about fixture congestion.