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Tuesday night was a great one for Bradford City and also for the Capital One Cup. The weekend's televised FA Cup ties - except perhaps Everton's too easy win at Cheltenham - were a fine start to the serious stages of a competition now brought to you with Budweiser.
Once those sponsors' names would grate (in fact they still do) but they are an indication of the popularity of the domestic cups, of the opportunity they present to companies to associate themselves with the game. This is a breach with tradition - and the FA refuse to allow their competition to have the sponsor's name before the title - yet the money paid is helping to preserve these institutions of the English game. Reports suggest that with no live terrestrial coverage in its new TV contract the League Cup deal is worth less than its predecessor, but significant money is still put into the game. It is also spread broadly, especially in the case of the FA Cup, which rewards teams who never make it to the first round proper, let alone the opening weekend of January.
No one can pretend that either tournament is the same as it was in the days when Coventry were beating Spurs or Luton were beating Arsenal, to pick two dramatic finals during the era when the Heysel ban from European competition made the domestic knockouts even more important. The League Cup, founded to rival the continental tournaments for popularity, took a long time to establish itself but from the late 70s it was far from the also-ran it has become. The FA Cup's allure withstood the threat of European nights and was a country-stopping showpiece that it will never be again.
2012 demonstrated the tournaments' weaknesses, if a reminder were needed. Winning one of the domestic cups and being inches from extra time in the final of the other could not keep Kenny Dalglish in his job at Liverpool; there is no chance whatsoever that Roberto Di Matteo would have been given a contract from which to be rapidly dismissed had Chelsea merely won the FA Cup under his caretakership.
Yet while attendances lag far behind a league exalted by ever greater rewards, they remain healthy when the prospect of glory approaches. As a television spectacle the knockout game remains a huge draw and anyone who has stuck a programme guide reminder on this season's Capital One Cup programmes has been richly rewarded. Football is so much more than mere business or entertainment for supporters, because once hooked we carry on paying or watching even if the experience is profoundly unenjoyable. There is also a place, though, for watching matches for their own sake.
Liverpool and Chelsea were cup winners in 2012 and it would be no surprise if the latter capture the League Cup at the end of next month. The leading clubs may pay less attention to the cups than once they did but they still dominate the lists of winners and finalists, and those successes are still heralded.
Meanwhile, when lower league clubs seize upon the opportunity to take on loftier opposition then once-in-a-lifetime moments can happen: as was remarked in commentary on Tuesday, Bradford won the FA Cup in 1911 but are now 90 minutes from another Wembley final.
I would like to see changes to boost the FA Cup - specifically, the allocation of the fourth Champions League place to the winners - but it does not actually need rescuing. Along with its younger sidekick it has declined in importance but the slump has been arrested and a plateau reached. Neither competition is what it was but you can celebrate both for what they are.