Programme columnist Layla-Anna Lee writes for cpfc.co.uk ahead of tonight’s Capital One Clash against Shrewsbury Town.
The League Cup is a competition that often divides the opinion of anyone involved with the game, from managers to fans and all that’s in between.
Many of us are unsure whether to love it or hate it. A great deal of press surrounding the competition is cynical, encouraging headlines like: ‘Capital One Cup: Is Anyone Watching?’, ‘Five Reasons The League Cup is a Micky Mouse Competition’ and ‘No-one Cares About The Capital One Cup’ are crueller than it deserves.
For teams competing below the line of the Premier League, the League Cup has always been respected as an opportunity. For some competing in the top-flight, the League Cup is portrayed as an annoyance and a distraction.
This is somewhat different for Crystal Palace. Thanks to careful planning and our adept handling of the transfer windows, we currently have a squad full of the depth and ability to challenge at the highest level. The players currently sitting outside the first 11 are desperate to get an opportunity and take their chance to impress the coaching staff, and this is the perfect time for them to shine.
When you combine this attribute with some of the memories we’ve had in the competition over recent years, the prospect of making an impact is one that fills me with genuine excitement.
One of our greatest League Cup campaigns came with a Crystal Palace squad at the completely opposite end of the spectrum to where we are now. With a team that was rebuilding post administration which ended in 2000, we beat Premier League opposition three times on the way to the semi-finals. That cup run, combined with a mesmerising end to the league campaign, served to be one of our most memorable seasons.
Our 2011/12 League Cup run saw us just miss out on reaching the final in a heart-breaking penalty shoot-out defeat at Cardiff City, but not before beating Manchester United at Old Trafford with Wilfried Zaha putting in a performance that I'm sure played a massive part in convincing Sir Alex Ferguson to offer a club record fee for our star man.
With the position the club is in now, and the history we have in the League Cup, makes tonight’s game the first stepping stone to a potentially incredible tournament for Palace. Ignore the dismissive headlines because we can genuinely see ourselves at Wembley and so this trophy just became valuable.
Layla’s column can be found in each league edition of the Palace Programme throughout the season.