Let's give clubs something to play for... and possibly even win

DESPERATE times call for desperate measures, hence the request from our esteemed sports editor for me to pen this week's football column.

This involved me forcing myself to watch Match of the Day on Saturday night followed immediately by the Football League Show.

Having watched both programmes, the one thing that became apparent was whether, other than the top six teams in the Premier League, there is any point in the other clubs actually bothering nowadays.

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Obviously, for the rare occasion of enjoying a shock win over a Chelsea or an Arsenal there is a point. But, let's face it, these 'other' clubs are never going to win anything.

For the foreseeable future, the Premier League title is going to go to one of a handful of clubs. Add Tottenham and, thanks to the injection of a few hundred quid or so from Abu Dhabi, Manchester City to the usual 'top four' and there you have your own little mini-league.

The likes of Aston Villa, Everton and maybe Sunderland or Bolton, can challenge for the remaining UEFA Cup spot but the rest can be left to compete in a never-ending battle to achieve mid-table mediocrity.

The game's two cups also offer little comfort to those outside the top six. Other than Portsmouth in 2008, which was an example of Harry Redknapp working a minor miracle, you have to go back to 1995 when Everton defeated Manchester United 1-0 to find the last time anyone outside of the game's new elite actually won the FA Cup.

The League Cup – for a while the one competition which offered hope to the smaller clubs – now seems to have been whisked away from them too, with only Middlesbrough and Blackburn breaking the stranglehold enjoyed by the top clubs in the last 10 years.

Yes there are promotions to be secured and The Championship, League One and League Two titles to be won and wonderful they are too.

However, in the case of the Championship clubs who win the league, what can they realistically hope to win after that? Yes, they suddenly inherit an embarrassment of riches, but that will rarely, if ever, bring any further silverware.

So it is the League Cup then that still offers the only realistic opportunity for clubs outside the top six to have something to aim for. A quick check of the competition's records reveals that back in the early 1960s when the competition first began, the game's top clubs refused to take part.

A strange decision, you might think but what it did do was allow the likes of Rotherham and Rochdale to reach what were then two-legged finals (neither of them won).

It was only when UEFA Cup qualification was thrown in as an added incentive that the whole of the football league then took part.

Fast forward to 2010, there's no reason why a similar scenario can't be created. Tell the top six to go and concentrate on the Premier League and Europe – they usually see the League Cup as nothing more than a minor irritation anyway.

This then leaves a much more level playing field for the other 86 clubs.

Let's face it the likes of Bury and Gillingham are still probably going to struggle to make much of an impact on the competition, but it allows clubs outside the elite to dream of landing what would still, I believe, be a major piece of silverware.

Retain the added bonus of a place in the Europa League for the winners and you're faced with the tantalising prospect of clubs like, for example, Doncaster Rovers or Hull City, playing in Europe.

Now that is something I'd pay money to go and see – or tune in to watch on TV.