It can be easy to overlook the League Cup. England, after all, do have two domestic cup competitions compared to most leagues that have just one, and with the FA Cup the more prestigious competition, it’s at best number five on the target list for any top side.
That standing is reflected in the prize money for winning it, just £100k. To put that in some perspective, finishing one place higher in the Premier League brings in an extra £2M and winning even an individual Champions League group stage game is worth £2.25M.
Still, a trophy is a trophy, and when you’ve managed to get to the semi-final stage the goal has to be to push on a little further. To take that first chance at silverware and perhaps help set the tone for a final push in the Premier League, Champions League, and FA Cup.
To those who don’t reach this stage, it will always be easy to say it doesn’t matter. When you do reach it, though, it does. For the fans and the players both. It’s a chance at a cup final. A chance to lift a trophy. Once the calendar turns over, if you’re still in it, it matters.
“Reaching the final of the Carling Cup as it was then was massive for me as a young player,” Jordan Henderson said, reflecting on winning the League Cup back in 2012. “It was also important for us as a club because it took us back onto the big stage after a bit of a gap.
“You can’t understate the importance. The fact the memories feel almost as vivid today as they did shortly after tells you everything you need to know about the impact the occasion had on me. The experience gives you a feeling that you want to have over and over again.”
Back when they last won it in 2012, a League Cup triumph—no matter the sponsor’s name leading it, something that likely doesn’t help when it comes to it being taken seriously—was the biggest piece of silverware that a struggling Liverpool side could likely aspire to.
Since then, Liverpool and Henderson have gone on to lift the Premier League, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, and Club World Cup. They’re back playing in the League Cup in January now, though. And now that the club are here, the expectation will be to win it.
“The competition’s name might have changed and as a club we might have progressed quite a bit,” Henderson added, “but the importance of reaching a major final remains as big as ever. These are the steps that take you closer to glory.”