The Football League Cup began in 1960/61 and has now been played for 47 seasons up to and including 2006/07.  It has been a sponsored competition since 1981/82:

1981/82 to 1985/86          The Milk Cup

1986/87 to 1989/90          The Littlewoods Challenge Cup

1990/91 & 1991/92          The Rumbelows League Cup

1992/93 to 1997/98          The Coca Cola Cup

1998/99 to 2002/03          The Worthington Cup

2003/04 onwards             The Carling Cup

The Football League originally proposed the League Cup as part of a scheme to reduce the number of clubs in each division and consequently the number of games played each season.  The reduction in numbers was not agreed to by the League’s member clubs, causing the ties to be squeezed into the existing fixture list.

          The new competition soon attracted a good deal of criticism.  The Wolves chairman thought it “not in the best interests of the game”.  The Times’ correspondent stated “our game is now further to be saddled by a pointless, prosaic, parochial new tournament”.  Opposition to the tournament has a familiar ring even today, being based largely on the assumption that clubs already had too many games to play in League, FA Cup and Europe.  However, the Football League saw the competition as a useful money-spinner for the smaller clubs.

          Ties were intended to be played mid-week under floodlights.  However, some 3pm kick-offs were needed since not all clubs had floodlights in 1960.  Weeks in the season are now set aside for ties, but the first season was not organised this way; with a number of clubs having byes in round one, some second round ties were played before first round games.

          Entry to the competition was not mandatory for League clubs until 1971/72.  1960/61 saw 87 entrants, the missing clubs being Arsenal, Sheffield Wednesday, Tottenham Hotspur, West Bromwich Albion and Wolves.  These clubs had filled four of the top five places in the First Division of 1959/60.  Entries in subsequent years were as follows:

1961/62             82

1962/63             80

1963/64             82

1964/65             82

1965/66             83

1966/67             90

1967/68             90

1968/69             91

The increase in the number of clubs entering in 1966/67 reflected the decision to play the final at Wembley and also to grant entry to winner to the European Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (later the UEFA Cup).  1969/70 was the first season when all 92 clubs entered.  Everton missed the 1970/71 season.  After entry became compulsory in 1971/72, Luton Town were disqualified in 1986/87 because of the club’s ban on away supporters entering their ground.

The first games took place under floodlights on 26th September 1960.  Bristol Rovers beat Fulham 2-1 and West Ham beat Charlton Athletic 3-1.  The first goal in the competition was scored by Maurice Cook, Fulham’s centre forward, in the 9th minute.

          The first final was between Aston Villa (who finished 9th in the First Division) and Rotherham United (15th in the Second).  The two-legged final was held over until the start of the next season.  Rotherham won 2-0 at home.  The second leg, played in heavy rain, saw Villa leading 2-0 after 90 minutes.  Extra time was played, during which Peter McParland scored the deciding goal for Villa.

             The next season saw Norwich City of the Second Division playing Rochdale of the Fourth, after both clubs had beaten First Division opponents in the semi-finals.  Rochdale remain the only club from the lowest of the four divisions to have played in the final.  Norwich built up a commanding lead in the away leg of the final so that the second leg was something of a formality.

          Aston Villa reached their second final in 1963.  The first “all First Division” final saw Birmingham City perform well enough at home to win the first major trophy in their history.  The next season produced a win for Leicester City over Stoke City, some reward for them perhaps after a sequence of losing Wembley finals in the FA Cup.

          Leicester reached the final again the following year, losing to Chelsea.  Leicester thus became the first in the list of clubs who have defended the League Cup well enough to reach the next final, only to lose.  The other clubs with this sad record are West Bromwich Albion, Nottingham Forest, Arsenal and Luton Town.

          The last two-legged final in 1966 was the only occasion on which a club overcame a first leg deficit to win the trophy. West Ham had a 2-1 lead after the first leg at home, but West Bromwich played well in the second leg to win 5-3 on aggregate.

          The first Wembley final in 1967 produced a major upset.  West Bromwich were hot favourites to retain the trophy against Third Division Queen’s Park Rangers.  At half time, West Bromwich held a 2-0 lead and the game looked to be over.  However, a great fightback, with Rodney Marsh prominent, saw the Rangers home by 3 goals to 2.  Queen’s Park Rangers were denied a place in the Fairs Cup because they were not a First Division club; West Bromwich took their place.

          Leeds United and Arsenal fought out a close game in 1968, the winning Leeds goal from Terry Cooper being hotly disputed following a charge on goalkeeper Jim Furnell.

          Arsenal returned to Wembley in 1969, only to become the victim of another piece of “giant killing”. Swindon Town had beaten two First Division teams to reach the final, but were given little chance against Arsenal.  On a poor Wembley pitch the game went to extra time, when two goals for Swindon gave them a deserved victory.  Don Rogers had an outstanding game, scoring two of Swindon’s goals.

          No third division club has won the League Cup since then; indeed the second division can only claim two wins.  The 1970s saw five of the leading clubs of the time achieve two wins each; Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Wolves, Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest.

West Bromwich played their third final in 1970. On a muddy pitch, with snow piled up behind the goals, West Bromwich took a five-minute lead against Manchester City through Jeff Astle.  There used to be a saying in the FA Cup that the first club to score would win the cup, but this has proved not to be a reliable forecast in League Cup finals.  Manchester City fought back to win 2-1 after extra time.

          In 1971 it was Aston Villa’s turn to play their third final, this time as a third division club.  Martin Chivers of Tottenham Hotspur scored the first goal against the run of play and the Spurs went on to win 2-0.

          Stoke City achieved their first major cup win in 1972 when they beat Chelsea in the final.  They needed two replays and a Gordon Banks penalty save from Geoff Hurst to beat West Ham in the semi-final.  George Eastham, by then reaching the veteran stage, scored the winning goal for Stoke in the final.

          Tottenham Hotspur became the first club to win the trophy twice.  Their opponents in 1973 were Norwich City, so one of the finalists was certain to achieve the honour!  A Ralph Coates goal in the 72nd minute was the only one of the game.

          1974 saw one of those goalkeeping performances where the natural laws of the universe seem to have been overcome.  Gary Pierce in the Wolves goal made outstanding saves from a Manchester City forward line that reads like a “who’s who” of British football in the 1970s; Summerbee, Bell, Lee, Law and Marsh.  Wolves won 2-1.

          1975 was unusual in that no First Division clubs reached the semi-finals.  Fourth Division Chester City came within a whisker of beating Aston Villa, then of the Second Division, in the semi-final, but Villa won through to meet Norwich City.  Having lost the 1973 final, Norwich had then lost narrowly to Wolves in the 1974 semi-final, so both clubs were regarded as League Cup experts.  An interesting twist was that the Villa manager, Ron Saunders, was leading a team out at Wembley for the third successive year; he had been manager of the losing Norwich and Manchester City teams.  It was third time lucky for Ron, as Villa won the first all Second Division final with a penalty goal from Ray Graydon after Mel Machin had dived full length to punch away a Chris Nicholl header.

          A spectacular overhead kick by Dennis Tuert won an entertaining 1976 final for Manchester City against Newcastle United.  1977 saw Aston Villa back again, once more as a First Division club.  A dull 0-0 draw against Everton was followed by another draw in the replay, thanks to a last minute Everton equaliser.  The second replay would have been settled by a penalty shoot-out, but this proved unnecessary as Villa won 3-2. Chris Nicholl scored one of the Villa goals with a tremendous long-range drive and the winner from Brian Little came with just two minutes left to play.

          1978 saw Nottingham Forest matched with Liverpool.  Forest had a sensational season, taking Liverpool’s championship the year after they were promoted from the Second Division.  Some of the Forest championship team were “cup-tied” and unable to take part in the final.  This gave teenage Chris Woods his opportunity in the Forest goal, and he made some good saves to keep the Wembley final to 0-0.  The replay saw John Robertson score from the penalty spot after a professional foul by Phil Thompson on John O’Hare, which a TV replay later seemed to show was outside the penalty area.  This was enough to win the cup for Forest, who thus became the first club to achieve a League and League Cup double.

Forest became the first club to retain the trophy when they beat Southampton in the 1979, despite falling a goal behind.  Their fine run continued to a third final against Wolves in 1980, but a mix-up in defence gave Andy Gray a goal and Wolves the trophy.

              If Liverpool were upset by the events of the 1978 final, they put the record straight with an amazing four consecutive wins, a record unlikely to be repeated.  None of the wins were easy, all four of the Wembley finals needing extra time.  Second Division West Ham took them to a replay in 1981, taking the lead at Villa Park before Liverpool fought back to win 2-1.  Tottenham Hotspur took the lead in the 1982 final, the first League Cup sponsored by the Milk Marketing Board.  Ronnie Whelan equalised with four minutes remaining and Liverpool scored two more in extra time. Manchester United reached the final for the first time in 1983, scored first through 17 year old Norman Whiteside, but were unable to stop Liverpool winning 2-1 after extra time.  Bob Paisley collected the cup in his retirement season.

          Liverpool’s fourth win was against Everton.  The all-Merseyside final was drawn 0-0; a Graham Souness volley in the replay was enough to keep the trophy at Anfield.  Liverpool had just one defeat in these four seasons, a second leg semi-final against Burnley.

          Norwich City achieved their second win in 1985, against Sunderland.  Both finalists had the misfortune to be relegated from the First Division at the end of the season.  Chris Woods was now playing for Norwich, and had a penalty to save, but the shot was pulled wide of the goal.  A deflected shot was enough to give Norwich their victory.

          Only one non-First Division club had reached the quarter-finals in 1985, and this was repeated in 1986 and 1987.  Oxford United and Queen’s Park Rangers reached the 1986 final.  It was Oxford’s day, and they won a one-sided final by three goals to none.

      The first Littlewoods Cup final in 1987 was a heavyweight affair between Arsenal and Liverpool. Liverpool scored first, but two Charlie Nicholas goals gave Arsenal the trophy.

          With twelve minutes remaining of the 1988 final, few would have doubted that Arsenal were going to retain the cup; 2-1 up, and with a penalty awarded in their favour.  However, Andy Dibble saved the penalty and Luton scored twice in the last 7 minutes to snatch an amazing victory.

          Luton returned to Wembley in 1989, scored first, but lost 3-1 to Nottingham Forest.  Forest had also won the Full Members Cup that season, then known as the Simod Cup.  Forest were back next season, to face Second Division Oldham Athletic who were having an outstanding season.  A single Nigel Jemson goal gave Forest the cup, so equalling Liverpool’s (then) record of four wins.

          A Second Division club was at Wembley in 1991 for the first Rumbelows Cup final, and this time were successful.  Sheffield Wednesday beat Manchester United with a single goal from John Sheriden.  Manchester United reached the final again in 1992, where they met Nottingham Forest.  A Brian McClair goal enabled United to become the first losing finalists in the League Cup to return in the next season and take the trophy.

          1992/93 was the first season of the FA Premier League.  At the time of writing, only Premiership clubs have won the League Cup since that season, 9 different ones in the 14 seasons.  Liverpool and Chelsea have each won three times in the 14 seasons, Aston Villa and Leicester City twice. 

Sheffield Wednesday took an early lead in the 1993 final before Arsenal fought back in the second half to win 2-1.  Aston Villa enjoyed an emphatic win over Manchester United in 1994 and two Steve McManaman goals helped Liverpool beat Football League Division One Bolton Wanderers in 1995.  Villa won again, 3-0 against Leeds United in 1996.

          Leicester City and Middlesbrough were unable to score in the 90 minutes of the 1997 final.  Ravanelli scored for Middlesbrough in extra time, then an Emile Heskey goal two minutes from the end of the game earned Leicester a replay at Hillsborough.  There was again no score in the first 90 minutes of the replay; a Steve Claridge goal for Leicester in extra-time won them the Cup. 

          The 1998 final between Chelsea and Division One Middlesbrough was the third consecutive final game with a 0-0 scoreline at the end of normal time.  Sinclair and Di Matteo scored for Chelsea in extra-time to win the Cup for the first time since 1965.  Leicester City were back at Wembley for the finals of 1999 and 2000.  Spurs beat them with a last minute goal from Neilsen in 1999.  Division One Tranmere Rovers fought hard in the 2000 final, but had a player sent off as Leicester won 2-1.

          A fifth round tie in 1999/2000 between West Ham and Aston Villa was seemingly won by the Hammers in a penalty shoot out when Gareth Southgate missed for Villa.  However, when the Football League checked the team sheets it noticed that West Ham had used Manny Omoyinmi as a substitute.  Unfortunately he had also played for Gillingham in the competition whilst on loan earlier in the seaon.  There was the possibility of disqualification for West Ham, but the League decided the game should be played again.  Villa won the re-arranged game 3-1.

          Another Division One club, Birmingham City, reached the first final to be played at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.  A dramatic last minute penalty, converted by Darren Purse, took the game with Liverpool to extra-time, followed by the first penalty shoot-out in a final.  Westerveld saved Andrew Johnson’s effort to win the Cup for Liverpool by 5 penalties to 4.

          The Millennium Stadium roof was closed for the 2002 final between Blackburn Rovers and Tottenham Hotspur.  Goals from Jansen and Andy Cole won a close-fought game to give Rovers their first League Cup triumph.  Liverpool resumed their outstanding League Cup form in 2003 with a 2-0 win over Manchester United.  Middlesbrough won a final at the third time of trying in 2004.  They were 2-0 up after 7 minutes; Bolton scored through Davies in the 21st minute, but there were no more goals.

          Liverpool were back again in 2005, with the first ‘first minute’ goal in the finals, thanks to Riise.  An own goal from Gerrard for Chelsea took the game to extra-time.  Two goals in five minutes tipped the game Chelsea’s way; Nunez scored for Liverpool just a minute later but they could not find an equalizer.

          Manchester United ended their run of losing League Cup finals with an easy win over Wigan Athletic in 2006.  Three second-half goals in the space of six minutes gave United a 4-0 win, only the second time that 4 goals have been scored in the final.

          The 2007 final was between the youngsters of Arsenal and £150 million of talent from Chelsea, in the first all-London final.  A keenly contested game was won for Chelsea with two goals by Drogba.  The final moments were marred by three sendings off when tempers boiled over.  This doubled at a stroke the sendings-off tally from previous finals.  Toure and Adebayor of Arsenal and Mikel of Chelsea joined Andrei Kanchelskis (Manchester United, 1994), Justin Edinburgh (Spurs, 1999) and Clint Hill (Tranmere Rovers, 2000) in the record books.




With one exception in 1961/62, the competition has always consisted of 32 clubs at the third round stage.  To cater for the number of clubs entering and those that are exempt until round three, different numbers of games have been played each season in rounds one and two.  On one occasion (2002/03) the number of clubs exempt to round three meant that a single preliminary round tie was necessary to even up the number of clubs in round one.

          For every season to 1995/96 some clubs were exempt until round two, but they all entered at this stage.  The increased number of games that some clubs were playing in Europe led to the introduction of byes to round three from 1996/97 onwards.

          All ties were single leg affairs at first, except for the semi-finals and final.  Semi-finals continue to be played over two legs, but the final became a one-off event from 1966/67 onwards.  Round one was played over two legs from 1975/76 to 2000/01 and round two was two-legged from 1979/80 to 2000/01. 

Two-legged games that were level on aggregate after extra time in the second leg were replayed (as often as necessary) until 1974/75.  Three ties went to a third replay in this period.  Replays of two-legged games were settled by kicks from the penalty mark from 1975/76 onwards; a game at Hillsborough between Sheffield Wednesday and Darlington was the first to be decided this way.  Replays of two-legged ties were abandoned in 1979-80 and the “away goals rule” or penalties (if the away goals were identical after extra time) used instead.  Mansfield Town were the first successful club thanks to the away goals rule.

Single leg ties that were drawn continued to use as many replays as necessary; two other matches (in 1983/84 and 1989/90) needed three replays.  Penalty kicks were used to settle the first replay from 1993/94 onwards.

          Semi-final ties that were drawn on aggregate went to extra time; if still level, until 1986/87 they were replayed; i.e. the away goals rule was not used.  Since then, the away goals rule and penalties have been used to settle the tie at the end of the second leg.  The two-legged finals would have gone to a replay but one was never needed.  When one-off finals were introduced, drawn games went to extra time and were then replayed until 1996/97, after which the penalty shoot out was introduced.

Seeding was introduced for the second round in season 1983/84.  This means that round one winners are likely to be drawn against a club from a higher division.  It also means that they are more likely to be knocked out of course!

The competition of 1961/62 did not follow the usual pattern.  Leeds United were given a bye in round 3 and five clubs had a bye in round 4.  They were Blackpool, Norwich City, Rochdale, Sheffield United and Sunderland.

          Luton Town were drawn to play Cardiff City over two legs in round 2, 1986/87.  Luton were refusing to allow away supporters to visit Kenilworth Road that season and consequently they were disqualified by the Football League.  Cardiff City were given a bye.






Seven times: Liverpool


Five times: Aston Villa


Four times: Chelsea, Nottingham Forest


Three times: Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur


Twice: Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United, Norwich City, Wolves


Once: Birmingham City, Blackburn Rovers, Leeds United, Luton Town, Middlesbrough, Oxford United, Queen’s Park Rangers, Sheffield Wednesday, Stoke City, Swindon Town, West Bromwich Albion





The Alan Hardaker Trophy has been awarded to the Man of the Match at every final since 1990.  The winners are:



Des Walker, Nottingham Forest



Allan Nielsen, Tottenham Hotspur


Nigel Pearson, Sheffield Wednesday



Matt Elliott, Leicester City


Brian McClair, Manchester United



Robbie Fowler, Liverpool


Paul Merson, Arsenal



Brad Friedel, Blackburn Rovers


Kevin Richardson, Aston Villa



Jerzy Dudek, Liverpool


Steve McManaman, Liverpool



Boudewijn Zenden, Middlesbrough


Andy Townsend, Aston Villa



John Terry, Chelsea


Steve Walsh, Leicester City



Wayne Rooney, Manchester United


Dennis Wise, Chelsea



Didier Drogba, Chelsea