GILES SMITH: CHILLY FEELING

Posted on: Thu 24 Jan 2013

With one domestic cup trail going cold, supporter Giles Smith is reviewing priorities and resetting sights in this week's column…


Who really wanted to be in the final of the Capital One Cup anyway? For large portions of last night's match, it looked as though several members of the team were in two minds about the prospect, and I can't say I blame them. It may even be that we've dodged a bullet.

Don't get me wrong: I hold the League Cup in the highest esteem. It's the second oldest club knock-out competition in English football, after all, and I, for one, never let anyone ever tell me otherwise.

It's a competition, too, with great memories for this club. Apart from the year we lost in the final to Tottenham.

Also, on any list of the season's priorities, written down in the 'dream period' of August, the League Cup is right up there - usually in fourth place. Which is not to be sniffed at. OK, this season, for us, you could make the argument that it was down to fifth - if you count the Champions League and the Europa League separately. Sixth, if you factor in the Club World Cup. Seventh if you include the Super Cup - although, you wouldn't, would you? That one really doesn't matter. So fifth, then. Or possibly sixth. Potentially even fourth.

And, as they say, a trophy's a trophy, isn't it? And who doesn't love a trip to Wembley? As long as the trains are working.

But then it got to Tuesday night. And I don't know, but on Tuesday night my whole frame of reference completely changed. The turning point? Aston Villa getting put out by Bradford City. Bradford City of League Two.

At that point, my eagerness to see us get to Wembley on this occasion… well, I'm not saying it completely disappeared, but it did slightly, shall we say, waiver. A League Cup final against Bradford: was not that, for the supporter of a Premier League club, the very definition of a hiding to nothing?

Lose and you would end up being the butt of a cosmic joke that no one would let you forget about for the rest of your football-supporting life. Losing at Wembley to a League Two side! It would make Arsenal's flop against Birmingham at the same stage of the same competition the other year look like a robust and unembarrassing outcome by comparison.

Win, on the other hand, and you would merely be producing the outcome that everyone expected - and for which everyone else in the country would hate you. 'But don't forget we had to beat Manchester United to get there,' you would tell people, with a desperate light in your eyes. 'And Swansea, coming from behind having gifted them two goals in the first leg.' And people would simply turn away, shaking their heads sadly.

A Premier League side getting a cup for beating a League Two side? It would just be wrong, wouldn't it? And afterwards fireworks would go off and there would be champagne to spray and… well, you'd have to feel pretty sheepish, wouldn't you?

The more I think about it, the chillier I feel, and the more I'm inclined to think that Swansea may just be welcome.

Was there any shame attaching to last night's performance? I don't think so. OK, it would have been nice, in the circumstances, to have created a few more clear-cut chances in the second half.

Then again, think about it positively. There aren't many teams who are going to travel to Swansea this season, keep a clean sheet and come away with a point.

It's just a pity it was a cup match and that we needed to win 3-0. (Or 2-0 and take it to penalties.) Remove that little bundle of distracting side-issues from the equation, though, and there was very little that was wrong with the performance at all - and plenty of positives, in fact, to take on into the rest of the season, starting with Sunday's FA Cup tie at Brentford.

The FA Cup: now there's a Wembley final I still wouldn't mind being involved in.