A collective failure of record proportions for England’s second team

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

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

Related: Carabao Cup: Sheffield Wednesday get 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 around the turn of the millennium, making more changes than was possibly wise. Wigan and Luton both named completely new starting XIs before defeats to Fleetwood and Newport, while just one Cardiff player kept his shirt from last weekend’s Championship clash and they were beaten 3-0 for their gravy. Admittedly by a Pompey side that had made six changes themselves, but again, let’s not confuse the general gist of the matter with the facts.

Only six Championship teams saved themselves, so even if Burnley and Watford top the tally going into the second round, this is a collective failure of record proportions for English football’s second tier. Or put in a more positive way, a record number of sides from the third and fourth tiers 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, many of the top wizards will also be trying Arsène’s clothes on for size, the chance of, say, Bradford or Rochdale making a new final is not half as unlikely as it seemed just a couple of days ago. Statistically at least.

It will be Manchester City or Liverpool again, won’t it?


“The fans were very helpful, they relayed my words to the pitch. They understood my instructions well” – Dalian Pro head coach Xie Hui, exiled to the stands due to a touchline ban, explains how supporters managed to relay his messages to players over the crowd noise as they watched him frantically wave three fingers and shout “three defenders” , before singing his words to them during the 1-1 Chinese Super League draw with Shanghai Port.On that basis, do managers have less than warm thoughts about away team goalkeepers in games then?


The latest Football Weekly Extra podcast is here for you, featuring Real Madrid’s win over Eintracht Frankfurt in the Biggest Cup.


“Tony Adams on Strictly Come Dancing (quote of the day yesterday)? Every routine for him should absolutely involve four steps towards the camera, an arm-in-the-air push on the last one with CGI versions of Lee Dixon, Steve Bould and Nigel Winterburn doing the same in a perfect line, then cut to a judge at side of the ballroom, flagging for offside?” – Ian Sargeant.

“Re: Tottenham’s latest signing. One of life’s eternal questions – how much is Udogie in the window – has finally been answered” – Grant Taylor.

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prize-free letter of the day is… Grant Taylor.


Morocco has sacked coach Vahid Halilhodzic just three months before the World Cup in human rights, a rather impressive third time he has been given the boot of the teams after they qualified for the tournament. “Given the differences and divergent visions of the best way to prepare the national team [HR] World Cup, the two parties decided to separate,” the Royal Moroccan Football Federation parried.

Southampton will have to make do with reduced capacity and new security measures at St Mary’s for the time being due to poor fans. “Getting this right is very important as it will hopefully prevent the installation of a solid boundary wall between home and away fans in the Itchen North corner,” said a letter to season ticket holders.

Teenage Liverpool tyro Harvey Elliott has agreed a new five-year deal with the club. “There’s no better place in this world to be than to play … and to put the shirt on and go out and play for the team and the fans,” he said.

There are 14 new signings and counting at Nottingham Forest, who are set to bring in Remo Freuler from Atalanta for £7.6m.

Leeds boss Jesse Marsch will not ditch his pressing style despite the stifling heat enveloping Britain. “Something about football or sports in [USA! USA!! USA!!!] in the summer it’s hot,” he purred. “There are blisters and so there are things I’ve learned about how to deal with fatigue, heat and deal with matches like that.”

New Fulham striker Manor Solomon will undergo knee surgery which will rule him out for much of the season.

And Alfie Mawson, a £20m signing for Fulham who also made the England squad in 2018, has moved up again at former club Wycombe in League One.


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