From Glyndebourne to Glastonbury - A social calendar for the 21st century
The League Cup
26 February, 2012
Wembley Stadium, London
Known frequently by the name of its sponsor, as the Milk Cup or Littlewoods Cup in the '80s, the Coca Cola Cup and Rumbelows Cup in the '90s, and currently the Carling Cup, the League Cup is England's second most important knockout competition after the FA Cup.
Eligible only to the top 92 teams in the country, drawn from the Premier League, Championship and Leagues One and Two, this is a competition that is often considered unimportant by the major top-flight clubs. However, it is this very attitude - often manifested by managers' decisions to rest key players and field weakened teams - that can lead to the phenomenon of 'giant-killing', as lower teams knock out bigger ones, and hence the Cup's appeal.
With the added prize that the League Cup winner qualifies for the Europe-wide Uefa Cup, it has increasingly become a more important competition for clubs outside the big four of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool as they compete for a chance to battle in Europe in the following season. Yet, despite this, it is Liverpool that have often found the most success - winning the tournament seven times, including four consecutive victories in the '80s.
While it may never win as firm a place in the hearts of football fans as the FA Cup, it is nevertheless a competition that can claim its fair share of drama and controversy. Meanwhile any team striding out for the final at Wembley knows that claiming the silverware on offer can make the difference between a successful and disappointing season for their fans.
In 2011 Birmingham City beat Arsenal with an 89th-minute goal from substitute Obafemi Martins after a defensive mixup to win a dramatic League final 2-1.