The value of the League Cup and FA Cup has been proven this season

Who could have predicted last month's meeting of Bradford City and Swansea City in the League Cup Final?

The League Cup has taken its fair amount of abuse over the years. Many Premier League sides have regarded it as a reserve team cup competition, something that is an unwelcome distraction from the league campaign.

Further down the divisions and the Cup is seen as long-winded and unwelcome in a footballing schedule that is already bloated.

However, the incredible stories we have seen this year, culminating in a final between Swansea and Bradford City, surely emphasize the real importance of a knock out cup competition - social mobility.

Had either of the two finalists played their way into Europe without the League Cup it would have required a number of multi-million pound campaigns that neither is in the position to sustain.

Yet next season Swansea will be able to take an extremely gifted side who ooze with technical ability into an arena that previously was unobtainable.

The team from South Wales, who have already won many plaudits with their playing style, are going to be able to establish a presence on the continent that is going to help Laudrup's team develop and hopefully propel themselves in the Premier League.

The interview with Bradford's chairman Mark Lawn before the Cup final, in which he said that the side would not play in the Europa League next season if it cost them any money, seems extremely shortsighted.

Clubs spend millions trying to establish a "presence" all over the world and surely Bradford's image and reputation would be enhanced if they took part in the competition?

Scouting is enhanced and player recruitment becomes so much easier when prospective purchases have seen that a club is being ambitious and forward thinking, and surely there are players who would jump at the chance to play in Europe?

In the end, a 5-0 victory for Swansea was the right result and the club is in the perfect position to use next season's Europa League as a springboard.

The way in which they conduct themselves and play with attacking ambition has won over impartial football fans in England and their style is one that will thrive in a European setting.

The same can be said for the FA Cup, which is also flagging in its popularity with major clubs over the past few seasons. The cup format means that it rewards clubs who really want to achieve something in their season, win silverware and play in European competition.

Who will forget Liverpool knocking out Oldham earlier this year in the FA Cup, and Brentford's near win over local rivals Chelsea will stir the memories of fans for years to come.

Swansea and Bradford are a perfect example of the place that cup competitions still have in our national game. There is no harm in seeing the riches and rewards that are saturated at the top of the pyramid being filtered down to benefit football at all levels.

image: © stephoto27

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