The competition known as the Capital One Cup (and previously as the Carling Cup, Worthington Cup, Coca Cola Cup and several other incarnations with various sponsors’ prefixes) began life in 1960 simply as the Football League Cup.
The brainchild of League supremo Alan Hardaker, it was a midweek competition played between League clubs only, with the final played on a home and away basis on the grounds of the two finalists. In its inaugural season, 1960/61, the competition got caught up in fixture congestion and the Final (between Aston and Villa and Rotherham United) had to be held over until the start of the following season.
Nor was its introduction unanimously welcomed. In fact, five of the leading top-flight clubs (then the First Division), Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Sheffield Wednesday and West Bromwich Albion) chose not to enter. It was only when the Final was switched to Wembley in 1967, and winning the trophy offered a route into Europe, did all the leading clubs participate.
Back in 1960 we were in the old First Division, and we played in that initial season. In the First Round, we were drawn to play Second Division Bristol Rovers at their old Eastville ground, a Monday evening game at the end of September which attracted a crowd of 20,022, which suggested the people of Bristol liked the competition and took it seriously. The referee was Denis Howell, who the previous March had been elected a Labour MP and went on to become the Minister of Sport in the Harold Wilson governments of the 1960s and 1970s.
We fielded pretty much our strongest XI. Missing from the team which had beaten Preston 48 hours earlier in the League were goalkeeper Tony Macedo, right half Alan Muller and winger Graham Leggat, but in Ken Hewkins, Dai Edwards and Tosh Chamberlain, manager Jezzard could field experienced replacements. With five wins and a draw in our first eight matches we were favourites to beat our lower-level opponents.
And it started so well. After nine minutes, Johnny Haynes passed to Johnny Key whose precision centre was blasted home by Maurice Cook. But Rovers came back, inspired by Ray Mabbutt (father of Spurs’ Gary). In the 36th minute, a shot by Alfie Biggs cannoned off the upright and Harry Jarman was on hand to score from the rebound. Then, on the hour, Geoff Bradford latched on to a poor back pass by George Cohen, rounded Hewkins and shot home from a difficult angle to win the tie for Rovers.
Disappointing as it was to lose, we did have the consolation of creating a little bit of history. This tie was the First Round of the first season of the competition, and played on the first night. We kicked off at 7.45pm, Earlier than the other ties played on the same day, and so Maurice Cook’s goal was the first-ever scorer in the history of the League Cup.
Cook, a burly, physical centre forward we had signed from Watford in 1958, scored 97 goals for us in 248 outings between 1958 and 1965 but this was the one that has left its mark in the record books.