How much does the Carling Cup matter?

The fall-out from Norwich City’s exit from the Carling Cup by MK Dons has left fans divided. But as the dust begins to settle, we ask: does it really matter? And if so, why?

Survival in the Premier League is paramount, but did Tuesday night’s exit help or hinder that aim?

Did the players who wore the yellow and green do it justice? Were their minds on the game, or on the Premier League?

Will the long-term effects of yet another early exit actually help City in the long run ... or will the memory of a home defeat of such magnitude affect players mentally?

Will the memory of Tuesday night be forgotten if City survive their first season back – or will it be resurrected should City fail in their mission to remain at the top table of British football?


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BIG DEBATE: DOES GOING OUT OF THE CARLING CUP MATTER?

• Yes - Dan Grimmer, Evening News reporter and Norwich City fan.

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Call me old-fashioned, but I love a good cup run. And it feels like an awfully long time since Norwich City had one of those.

As a young Canaries fan, I didn’t get to go to the Milk Cup Final. But I remember Norwich beating Millwall in a penalty shoot-out in the Zenith Data Cup. Stupid though it seems, I was desperate for them to win that game. It didn’t matter to me that it was a Mickey Mouse competition. If we got to the final, I’d see Wembley covered in yellow and green.

We didn’t. But I still want to hear On The Ball City at Wembley and the League Cup (I don’t care who sponsors it – it’s the League Cup for me) could be the best chance I get to see it happen. Apart from the play-offs, but let’s not go there...

Norwich has a proud record in the League Cup – four finals, two wins. But I hate the way the League Cup and the FA Cup have been devalued as the money which clubs make from the Champions League and the Premier League have taken over football. The rot really set in when Manchester United pulled out of the FA Cup a few years back and it saddens me to see teams field second string sides for both cup competitions.

I don’t like seeing Norwich do that. I can understand it, with the desire to avoid injuries, bookings and to give fringe players a run-out, but it doesn’t mean I like it.

Yes, that team Paul Lambert put out should have been good enough to beat MK Dons, and I’m sure he wasn’t happy with them being thrashed 4-0 by a League One side.

But I suspect at 2-0 down, the half-time team talk did not consist of him giving the players the hairdryer treatment, ordering them to turn it around, get a couple of goals and force extra time.

Lambert says sometimes you learn more about yourself when you lose as a footballer and a manager. He’s normally right, and I hope he is this time.

Maybe sorting out the mistakes made will mean we beat Chelsea on Saturday, in which case I’ll be grateful I endured a thrashing at the hands of a town that shouldn’t even have a team in the football league. But I’d still really like a cup run one of these seasons.

• No - Chris Lakey, Head of Sport and football writer.

At half-time on Tuesday, I received a text: “Suppose this is what happens when you play the reserves! I think we should play the strongest team – so unfair on the fans.”

My response? I’m not sure it matters in the long run. I know Paul Lambert says his whole squad will feature this season, but if the Carling Cup had a red alert, a high priority notice slapped on it, would he have named the team he did? Of course not.

Those who played were those who needed to for Premier League purposes – to keep them fit and ready.

The team he selected should have been good enough to beat MK Dons. That’s without question. And for the sake of this argument let’s get one thing out of the way: no team goes out intending to lose. It’s whether it matters or not that is the very different debate, and it doesn’t.

Going to a cup final is a memorable day out – Birmingham fans will tell you that. But being in the Championship the following season rather than in the top flight is something they’d prefer to forget. I’d swap the final day blues for survival.

Do you want to sit with your grandchildren in 20 years time and say, “I remember the day we went to Wembley and won the Carling Cup – but the following 10 years in the Championship were awful”?

Nothing must jeopardise Premier League survival. The one thing that clearly rankles is not that City are out of the competition, but the manner in which they exited stage left. It was dire, awful, humiliating. But it is one bad performance in the last two seasons and in a game which, at the end of the day, doesn’t matter.

I have no idea what Paul Lambert said to his players before he sent them out, but I’ll bet he was HOPING they wouldn’t hurt themselves, that they wouldn’t be sidelined from his squad for weeks because of a tinpot cup competition, because that’s what it is. The fact that two players suffered injuries wasn’t their fault, but it does highlight the problem of playing matches that you don’t really want to be involved in.

I bet my last quid that Paul Lambert would have pulled his team out of that game had he been allowed to – and I will double that by saying there are a dozen other managers who would do the same.

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