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Poor Cousin Cup?

By: Todd Bontoft
Date: 04/09/2000

On Tuesday 5 September the Mariners take on Carlisle in the second leg of round one of the Worthington Cup. Carrying a 2-0 first leg lead, the Mariners will hopefully do enough for them to progress into the next round.

My abiding memory of The League Cup - for that is what it is despite the sponsorship will remain - the packed house at Blundell Park seeing off an Everton side full of stars and top quality players. Mickey Brolly's two goal salvo seeing us though 2-1 on the night and onto an epic series of games against the then mighty Wolves.

That is, of course, until this year when a new memory will be firmly embedded within the old grey matter. This year we are going one better than the terrific performance of last season's Division One finalists Tranmere. Yes the pigs are well-fed and waiting to fly BUT you never know!

Unfortunately, without wishing to take away Tranmere's or any one else's success - after all a Wembley visit and a trophy bearing the name of a windscreen replacement company will always have a place in many of our hearts - the Worthington Cup is a much maligned competition.

It's no longer given serious attention by the country's leading clubs whose concentrations are the Premiership, European Competitions and the FA Cup. And depending on the club, not necessarily in that order.

This does, ironically, give Grimsby and other clubs an invaluable opportunity. It is probably the only major competition that small and medium sized clubs have a realistic chance of winning or achieving a cash cow from a good cup run.

Long gone are the days when Nottingham Forest or Derby won the league and Sunderland or Wimbledon the FA Cup. The history of football in the nineties and certainly since the formation of the Premier League has seen the two leading domestic trophies dominated by a handful of rich and powerful clubs.

Almost without exception since 1975 every FA Cup Final has been contested by one of the traditional big five - Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool, Moanchester United and Tottenham. Add Chelsea who have moved in recent times into this category and there is no longer an exception to the rule.

Yet during this period, which has seen the amassed resources and wealth of the 'haves' becoming ever more obscene when compared to the 'have-nots', the league cup has become a beacon of real hope for smaller clubs. Teams such as Norwich, Oxford, Luton, and Leicester have won it and the likes of Oldham, Bolton and recently Tranmere have all reached a Wembley final.

So when the 'likes of' Moanchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea graciously join the also-rans who started the competition, fielding under-strength sides, there may be a chance that Grimsby with a bit of luck will do fare better than any of us expect. Last year three First Division sides made the last eight - Bolton, Tranmere and Fulham.

But of course before we can dream of such high and lofty cup runs we need to pay due respect to Carlisle and let's face it pickup some much-needed league points.

Yes the league does, and should, come first but I don't want to be excusing any early departure with 'Oh well, yes, we're concentrating on the league'.

This cup, this year, just may be the fillip we need.

Maybe, just maybe!

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