DAVE Jones refuses to say a bad word about the Football League Cup.
It brought him one of his cherished memories, when his Stockport team reached the semi-finals against the odds.
And the Wednesday boss believes that the competition - now known as the Capital One Cup under its new sponsorship - is a tournament that deserves respect in its own right.
It offers a route into Europe and it is nearly always won by a Premier League club, though the Owls were exceptions when they beat Manchester United in the 1991 final.
“It annoys me when some of the bigger clubs sometimes lessen the cup trophies,” said Jones.
“If I was a chairman and I’d ploughed loads of money into a club, and the manager took the FA Cup or League Cup for granted, I’d be fuming.
“There’s only two or three clubs who win the Premier League.
“The League Cup offers another route into Europe. I think some of the big clubs are starting to realise it’s a big trophy to win.
“That’s what makes it more difficult when you’re going into it as one of the smaller clubs.
“It’s a fantastic competition. I would never belittle any competition - if
you put your name into it, you should be wanting to win it.
“It’s hard for clubs like Sheffield Wednesday when you’ve big guns from the Premier League trying to win it.
“But if we get a result against one of the big sides, it’s a fantastic scalp.
“Our game against Fulham will be a hard one for us, as it would be for any Championship club against a Premier League side.
“In the cup, you haven’t got the pressure of the league, but there’s still a pressure because you want to win.”
It is easy to understand why the League Cup has some happy memories for Jones.
His Stockport side, then in football’s third tier, beat higher-division rivals Sheffield United, Blackburn, Southampton and West Ham to reach the 1997 semi-finals.
County lost 2-1 on aggregate to Middlesbrough in the semis after winning the Riverside Stadium second leg 1-0
Jones says in his book, No Smoke No Fire: “It was gut-wrenching to lose so narrowly on aggregate, especially as we missed a great chance to equalise in the last minute.
“You should have seen Bryan
Robson’s face; he was crapping himself.
That same season, Stockport reached the fourth round of the FA Cup and were promoted to what is now the Championship.
Jones believes that cup results may be no guide towards assessment of a team’s capability: “I’ve seen teams who are not doing well in the League get results against Premier League sides, and it doesn’t tell you anything because you’re then going back to the humdrum league football.
“If you lose to a big side in the cup, it shouldn’t affect your league form, but if you win it does affect you - it’s crazy, really, because it gives you impetus for the next one.”
The need to win is something that drives the Owls chief, no matter what the context.
“Even when we played the pre-season games at Stocksbridge and Sheffield FC, I wanted to win. That’s we get paid. We’re professionals. Who should get paid to lose?
“I’ve never entered any game as a player, coach or manager where it didn’t bother me whether
we won or not. I want to won every game, even pre-season games, because you an attitude that should be right.
“That’s why we come here [to the training ground]: to try to get it right to win matches.”
Teams and ref
OWLS (possible): Kirkland, Lee, Llera, Beevers, Mattock, Pecnik, Semedo, McCabe, J Johnson, Maguire, O’Grady (4-4-2).
FULHAM (possible): Schwarzer, Riether, Hughes, Hangeland, Briggs, Duff, Diarra, Dembele, Kacaniklic, Ruiz, Petric (4-4-1-1).
Paul Tierney (Lancs): Sent off Gary Madine at Carlisle last season; handled Sheffield United’s game at Coventry last Tuesday; recently sent an apology to Rotherham United for missing a bad tackle on one of their players.