Not so long ago I wrote an article where I suggested we ought to focus more on the EFL Trophy than the EFL Cup. For those who get confused about the two, the trophy is the one we won, the Cup is the one Blackburn stuffed us in.
I concluded, correctly, that the financial rewards lie with the EFL Trophy, whereas a League Cup run would cost us unless we got to the quarter-final or so. I wrote that in good faith ahead of our game against Mansfield in the group stages, a game we lost for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Mansfield were bloody awful that night, booting us all over the place and picking up bookings that they wouldn’t have risked in the league.
Secondly, they didn’t have a game on the following Saturday and played a strong side whereas we didn’t and thirdly, we didn’t want it. When chasing the game we left Matt Green on the bench and brought on Jamie McCombe. That is why I’m not heading to Scunthorpe tonight because I know, deep down, despite being a born winner and all that, Danny doesn’t care about this competition.
He’s even said it. I know few of you read the programme these days, but for the likes of me who still cherish the printed product, there’s the odd nugget of gold in there. Prior to the Crawley game, Danny wrote: “Our intentions in the competition are different from last year. We will use the competition to learn about our young players while keeping our senior players that have not been in the starting XI match fit and match sharp.”
“That doesn’t mean that we won’t be ultra-competitive and doing all we can once we step over the paint. it is just that our objectives this year are different and consequently so is our planning for these games.”
In other words, we ain’t going out to win it because we want to be promoted to League One. I know there will be a group of you (Craig Robertson) who will immediately point to us winning it last year as a reason for failing to get promoted. It isn’t, but this year we don’t just want to scrape in third, do we? We want to win the league and that means making sure our key players are not injured by some over enthusiastic Scunthorpe third-choice left back.
Danny does go on to explain how it isn’t an easy decision to make as he wants to win every game, but that there is a bigger picture. Yes there is, the chance to maybe play away at Hull next season or even meet Ipswich in league competition. That’s more important than retaining a cup that we’ve already saved once.. Let some other mugs beat the Under 21 side in the semi final, or at least try to. If they don’t the competition loses the last of the integrity we ensured it still retains today.
Is that it? Do we not bother about the FA Cup either? It’s clear we weren’t too bothered about the League Cup, fielding a second-string against Blackburn and Danny himself essentially says the Trophy is a sideshow, so what of the grandest cup competition of them all?
Don’t expect us to step aside in that.
Knowing Danny, there’s no way he’ll risk the same strategy in the FA Cup as the other two. It is the greatest club competition in the world, forget that Champions League rubbish, the FA Cup is where anyone can make a name for themselves, where real fairy tales are written and where a club’s fortunes can change overnight. You want an example? Us. That cup run gave us the money to recruit in January 2017 and become push on through the final straight to win the National League. That readers, is fact.
We won’t improve on our cup run of that year, we won’t make the quarter-final again because events like that happen once in a lifetime. Just thinking about what we achieved gives me goose bumps as I write this. Stood in silence at Turf Moor as Sean Raggett’s header was adjudged to have crossed the line. Literally in tears as Nathan Arnold did it (oh yes he did) in the 90th minute against Ipswich. Even listening to such utter tripe about us needing a replay to beat Altrincham in the first round proper from fans around me in a half-empty Sincil Bank. That run was special and because of that alone, we’ll never take that competition lightly.
No, Danny will happily see Kellan Gordon and Adam Crookes run out against Scunthorpe tonight, but I can’t see him ever doing the same in the FA Cup, even if we did draw Spennymoor or Dunston UTS (both still in it btw, I’ve checked). He would still go for broke, not least because the games are on a Saturday and therefore not interrupting with the league schedule.
Tonight is a write off. If you’re going, fair enough, but just remember what to expect. It is admirable wanting to cheer the lads on, but having won it once and knowing the club’s stance I can’t get myself enthused at all. It’ll be the same when we play Wolves and as things stand, I’m not going to that game either. It isn’t a boycott as such, but if Lincoln City are focused on one competition, then so am I.
None of this is bad news, anyone who thinks we need the revenue from the EFL Trophy or who believes not fielding a strong side is affecting the winning mentality is, in my eyes, wrong. I happy for them to hold that opinion but a part of me is pleased that we’re focusing on the league. Yes, I’d like a cup run but knowing that the club is so pointed towards promotion excites me too. Knowing Danny is a winner, someone who is likely to put £300 in one of those teddy grabbing machines at the sea-side just to say he got something, makes me comfortable that the decision hasn’t been taken flippantly. This isn’t an Evans quoting ‘we’re concentrating on the league’ when his Mansfield side are eighth or ninth. This isn’t a post-match excuse after a defeat. This is ambition, beyond the EFL trophy and even the League Cup. It is a club wanting one thing and one thing only, promotion.
Knowing Danny and Nicky, if that is what they really want, what everything is focused on, then the likelihood is that it’ll happen. Nobody will give a flying rat’s ass about Scunthorpe in the EFL trophy in May if we’re crowned champions.