I’ve said elsewhere: there’s something about old top flight stalwarts. I’m excited to see Wolves and Burnley up in the top flight again. (Birmingham have come up every other season since I’ve been watching so that seems too routine to be thrilling.) I’d love to see a club like Nottingham Forest or Crystal Palace or Sheffield Wednesday climb up the Championship table and come back up for old time’s sake.
I think a part of it is since I came late to following English football, these clubs give me a glimpse of what I’ve missed. They lug their history with them to the tier they once called home, if only for 90 minutes or so. Even if the players and kits and grounds have changed, it gives one a chance to step into a time machine and visit the fixtures of years gone past. A bit sappy, I know. But if you’re like me the next round of this year’s Carling cup is here to cater to your romantic needs.
Generally, I don’t care too much about the Carling Cup. Less glamorous than the FA Cup, far less substantial than the European Cup or the League, the Carling Cup lies in the shadows of flashier competitions. But I’m a bit more interested in this season’s third round for a few of the ties that drip with romantic sentiment.
Leeds v Liverpool
Two historied clubs. One hoping to end a 19 year title drought. One just hoping to climb out of League 1. On Leeds’ website the draw is described as “the biggest cup draw the club has had since suffering relegation from the Premier League at the end of the 2003/04 season.”
These old rivals haven’t faced each other since February 2004: a 2-2 draw at Elland Road. Former Leeds man Harry Kewell sparked the scoring but Bakke and Viduka responded for the home side. Milan Baros’s 41st minute goal would put Liverpool level.
Chelsea v QPR
A West London derby from old days. In his blog, BBC Sport’s Chris Charles, a QPR fan, recalls his side’s visit to Stamford Bridge in last season’s FA Cup: “The chant to the eerily silent home fans was ‘We forgot that you were here’ and the instant reply: ‘We forgot that you exist.’ Ouch.” That match ended 1-0 after Pizarro’s shot bounced off the post and deflected in off QPR’s Camp.
Perhaps QPR can remind Chelsea of the old rivalry with a stunning upset. Who knows?
Nottingham Forest v Blackburn Rovers
Thirty years ago Nottingham Forest were European champs. Now they just hope they can knock Blackburn out of the Carling Cup. These two haven’t faced off since 2001 when both were in Division One. Forest beat Rovers 2-1 with Bart-Williams and Edwards securing a healthy lead before Blackburn’s Jansen nicked a consolation goal in the 88th. Of the matches I’ve picked, this has the best chance for an upset, but expect both sides to push hard. Should be an interesting match.
Manchester United v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Not as exciting as the other ties since Wolves are actually in the Premier League this season. But since newly promoted Burnley have already beaten the champs this season, Wolves will certainly feel they have a chance to knock United out of a cup run.
The last meeting was in 2004 when Wolves were last in the top flight. United, who were defending champs that season as well, were undone by Kenny Miller’s 67th minute strike. Wolves would sink back to the flight below, but at least they could say they killed the giant on their day.
Barsnley v Burnley
Okay: not the most interesting tie. But I include it since I got the two sides confused in an article I wrote several weeks ago when I was describing Barnsley’s stunning FA Cup run in 2007/08 and I accidentally called them Burnley. (In fact, just now I started typing out Burnley as the home side and had to catch myself.) I’ll be tempted to have a couple drinks before sitting down to type up a breakdown of this match after it happens for extra confusion.
Their last meeting was in December 2008 when Barnsley beat hosts Burnley 1-2… or did they?
So I’m looking forward to the third round’s trip through the history books. And if a few upsets come into it, that always makes for a good watch as well.