Carling Cup sacrifice only worth it with Wigan win

The Carling Cup is a funny competition. It seems to creep up on you at the start of the season – especially if you are in Europe – and there is no grand fan fare ahead of each round like there is with the FA Cup.

Teams generally pick reserve sides, while the fans vote with their feet, leaving matches looking decidedly grim in half empty stadiums, especially if a Premier League side is at home. Plus if you go out early you are quick to dismiss it as the ‘Mickey Mouse’ Cup. I remember when we won the Mickey Mouse Cup in 2008 against the blue scum. The Arsenal fans couldn't help themselves and went on and on, telling me that we hadn't won anything special. When they reached the final last year, the Mickey Mouse Cup could have been their first trophy in a while, but of course, as it was meaningless, it didn't matter too much to them that they had lost the final to Birmingham. "We'll leave the Mickey Mouse Cups to the small teams like Spurs", said one colleague.

If I'm honest, I suppose I was quick to have that attitude this week after we were finally put out of our misery at the Britannia Stadium. Wow was that a boring match. Tremendously terrible from all angles.

But, had we gone through to the next round, all the talk would have been of ‘a day out at Wembley’ and a ‘European place’, even if that place is a spot in the Europa League, in which last Thursday we fielded an even weaker team than we did at Stoke. That was also a terrible game, although Redknapp has been blooding the little ones, which can only be a good thing.

So then, if we have a priority, it has to be the league, obviously. If we're going to improve our Premier League odds and somehow hang onto the coat-tails of the billionaire-driven big-three then a return to the Champions League – where we know we can hold our own – is essential. I don't know about you, but we have a real chance of getting into the top four this season. Don't you? Should I take off my Spurs cap?

But I’m also a firm believer in what momentum and confidence can do to a side. It is a well worn and often abused cliché but ‘winning is a habit’ rings true. It is hard for a player to switch off for one game and on for another, even more so if the starting XI is dramatically altered from one game to the next. That is why effectively sacrificing the Carling Cup like we did will only be worth it if the club gets a win at Wigan on Saturday – just like the draw in Thessaloniki, followed up by the Liverpool result, was a perfect example of managing your resources by Harry Redknapp. On a quick side note, I can sort of understand you reasoning behind not liking Harry, although what I can't understand is why so many of you are vocal about it. Harry has a mouth on him. We all know that, but no other manager has done what he has done for Spurs since the Premier League came into existence. Give the guy a break.

A good example of how not to chop and change your squad was recently experimented on by Martin O’Neill at Aston Villa in 2009. The Irishman effectively sacrificed the UEFA Cup by playing a weakened team against Spartak Moscow in order to concentrate on finishing 4th. They ended up by in sixth. Gary Megson did the same the year before when he played a weakened team against Sporting Lisbon ahead of a game with Wigan. They tumbled out of Europe and lost to the Latics 1-0.

If you watch football live at the Lane, then you will know how special European nights and knock-out cup-ties under the lights can be. Therefore, it's a shame that they are viewed so negatively compared to finishing fourth in the table.

However, if the club can continue to muddle their way through the Europa League until the post-Christmas knock-out stages, then it will suddenly take on greater significance. Meaning we could dream of a long cup run as well as an assault on the Champions League places - something that doesn’t seem possible at this busy opening phase of the season.

Can we make it three on the bounce against Wigan? I think so.




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