The Cup and the League

Friday, January 6 – 1922
Vital differences between the two competitions

By Kenneth Campbell
Having had experience of League matches and Cup-ties in England as well as in Scotland, I have come to the conclusion that there are vital differences between the two competitions. Before going on to discuss the differences may I just say in passing what a fine thing it is that there should be these two fine competitions, and how splendidly the whole of the football season is arranged?

Kenneth Campbell 1922

By the time the New Year dawns the League competition has more or less shaped itself; it is usually possible to make some sort of rough guess at the clubs which will eventually finish in the high places in the League and those which will finish low down.

For such clubs the last two or three months of the season might, in the ordinary way, be rather less thrilling than their supporters like. It is for clubs such as these that the Cup competition comes as a boon and blessing.

In the Cup competition there is a sort of second chance, and the wonderful part about it is that you will generally find that it is one of the clubs in a very ordinary position in the League table which walks off with the honours of the knock-out competition.

Many a time I have been asked as to whether it is a greater honour to win the championship of the First Division, in either England or Scotland, or to win the Cups “put up” in those countries. In my opinion there can be no real question as to which necessitates the greater all-round side. I say without hesitation that the club which wins the championship of the League in England, say, has the right to be known as the best club of the season in that country.

Winning the League championship means consistency right from beginning to the end of the season; means that points must be picked up regularly against all sorts of opponents and on all sorts of grounds, varying from the iron-hard surface to the pitch which is little better than a mud-heap. Because there must be this consistency through a long eight months against all corners, I repeat that the side which wins the championship has the right to the title “the best club of the season.”

It is, then, in the first place, in the length of competition that we get one of the vital differences between the Cup and the League. Even in England all that a team has to do is to remain undefeated through six rounds in order to win the trophy. Did I say all? Well, don’t misunderstand me. It is a big “all,” as any man will tell you who has been with a Cup side, as I have, right to the final tie and then retired beaten in the end.

But it is obvious that a shorter competition should have differences as compared with the longer one.

There is the difference in training, for one thing. Now, it is a comparatively easy matter to get a set of men fit for a few games in the early part of the season, but it is a very different matter keeping those men physically fit to last through the whole eight months of a strenuous campaign. And that is one reason why so many clubs fail in the Cup competition – the men get stale just when it is vitally necessary that they should be right in the pink of condition.

Therein, too, you have the explanation of why it so seldom happens that the same side wins the championship and the Cup – the strain of trying to bring off the double event is too big, and under it the men who attempt the double break down.

On the other hand, the team most likely to win the Cup is probably one which has done only moderately well in the first half of the season, but whose men strike the top-note of their form, and their fitness, during the second half – or, in other words, during the Cup-ties part of the campaign.

So that just now, if you are inclined to indulge in the pastime of finding the ultimate winners of the Cup either in England or Scotland, look for the side which has no cares about the League and whose men gives the impression of just running into their best form.

Such a side will work night and main to achieve their object – to come out on top in a competition which gives them a “second chance” to make good.

It seems to me, too, that there is another big difference between the two competitions, and that is in the luck element. It may be said that there is that element connected with League matches, and that is true. It should be remembered, though, that the luck has a way of distributing itself fairly evenly over a long competition which has in it 42 matches.

Moreover, in the League it is always possible to make up leeway which may be lost in an unlucky patch. But there is no making up leeway in the Cup competition. One indifferent display, or one bit of bad luck, means good-bye to the Cup competition for that season.

Think of the Cup-ties you have seen, and I guarantee that you will remember many in which that little thing which we call luck has turned the scale.

Strictly speaking, it must be so in a game which is so largely made up of accidents, and when the competing teams are on such a fine level of equality.

I remember years ago making a slip in a Cup-tie, somehow or other I failed to save a shot which I should have stopped with ease 99 times out of every 100. But on that particular day I fooled it, and my team went out of the Cup competition to a side which, I think I may safely say, we ought to have beaten. These sort of things are all a part and pared of the Cup competition.

Then, of course, there is luck connected with the Cup in other directions as distinct from the League. There is the luck of the draw, for example, and when I say that I do not merely mean the luck of being draw to play at home.

There is luck in the sort of opponents you are called upon to meet. There may be teams in the competition who would beat yours every time, but you skip them and manage to be drawn against teams which play the sort of football which is mostly beaten bu the particular type of game followed by your own players.

Again, there is all the excitement which is inevitably associated with Cup games as distinct from League matches.

Believe me, temperament plays a very big part in Cup winning, and as the result of much experience I have come to the conclusion that the side with the best chance of winning the trophy – the luck being equal – is the one whose players have the right sort of temperament which enables them to play their natural game under the most exciting conditions one can possibly imagine.
(Biggleswade Chronicle, 06-01-1922)

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