The70s were kings of cups
NEIL COTTON recalls a time when clubs were eager to play in a variety of cup competitions – rather than cold-shoulder them
highest scoring, non-promoted, clubs from each division. True to form, the first two finals produced a tally of 13 goals as Derby County defeated Manchester United 4-1 in 1970 and Colchester United and West Brom played out a 4-4 draw a year later. The tally of goals was quite possibly helped by a tweaking to the offside rule, making it only applicable inside the opponents’ area.
The cup is also notable as being the first occasion in England where, having received FIFA’s official blessing, a penalty shoot-out was used to decide the outcome of a tied match; The first occasion this happened was the semifinal between Manchester United and Hull City in 1970, which United won.
At the other end of the season and the decade, the Debenhams Cup had perhaps the most imaginative set-up of the three. Like the Cup Winners’ Cup, the Debenhams Cup was a cup which rode on the back of another cup. Originating as a proposal by consultants working for the retailer Debenhams, the idea received swift acceptance from the FA and Football League.
The idea behind the cup was to provide a consolation to be contested by the two clubs who were present in the first round proper who had reached the furthest stage of the FA Cup – in other words, clubs from outside the top two divisions.
As part of their proposal, the consultants had created a list of clubs who would have contested the cup, had it existed, going back to the start of the post-war period in 1946-47.
By coincidence, the first pair on that list, Chester and Port Vale, were also the first to compete for the trophy in 1977 with Chester emerging as the first winners after overturning a 2-0 defeat at Vale Park by winning 4-1 at Sealand Road for a 4-3 aggregate score.
For all the excitement they could produce, none of the tournaments were destined to last in the long-term and join the pantheon of more established silverware such as the FA Cup and League Cup. Both the Debenhams Cup and the Watney Cup disappeared when the sponsorship deals had run their course, after two years and four years respectively.
The Texaco Cup would prove the most resilient as despite Texaco’s sponsorship ending with the 1974-75 edition, a very similar tournament, the Anglo-Scottish Cup, was set up to run from 1975. This, though, would end after the1980-81 season and in so doing bring an end to a glorious era of cup football which looks destined never to be repeated.