Star-studded backroom staff and juicy rivalries await as the EFL Football Manager Cup gets under way!
By Virgin TV Edit
With it now being well over a month since teams across the UK took to the pitch, we can only imagine stadia now resemble dusty, Mad Max-esque wastelands where only the odd ratchet-spinning, football-loving vulture and teary groundsmen now gracing many teams’ hallowed turf.
But, football is back! Sort of. The English Football League have, quite brilliantly, found a way to sate hundreds of thousands of fans’ insatiable urge to watch their team lose 1-0 away with this brand new virtual tournament in association with Football Manager and Mind!
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Every EFL club has been entered into a virtual tournament that will play out via Football Manager’s fearsome versus mode, with the eventual winner of May’s final crowned the inaugural Football Manager English Football League Cup champion.
Sure, it isn’t quite the same as standing on a concrete terrace with cold feet, a cup of tea so strong that one sip turns a ten-year-old into a pensioner, watching on as a dour draw leaves you wondering “why do I do this to myself, again?”, but it’s a brilliant compromise.
Intrigued? Then read on below to find out everything you need to know about the tournament before it gets under way tonight…
When is it “kicking off”?
The action begins tonight (Monday 20 April), with the first round of fixtures taking place from Monday to Thursday. Selected highlights can be viewed on the Football Manager YouTube channel after the matches have taken place, with any subsequent updates regarding draws or announcements found on the FM website.
Who are the “managers”?
Gone are the tracksuit-clad managers of old. With this tournament, fans and footy pros alike are taking the reins. Standout appointments include Fulham fan and This Country star Charlie Cooper taking over at Fulham, with West Brom’s Romaine Sawyers being promoted from midfield charge to head coach, and Nottingham Forest winger Joe Lolley making the same move at the “City Ground” (aka, for now, his bedroom).
Any dark horses?
With respect to each club, rarely would the likes of Macclesfield Town or Northampton Town be the front-runners to clinch a cup come May. But, with Football Manager World Champion Daniel Fry at the helm, Macclesfield could well cause an upset. As could Northampton, who boast FM Creator’s Cup-winner Leigh Reeve.
Is this the greatest virtual cup competition of all-time?
Yes. Sure, Championship play-off chasers Preston are technically more likely to win than, say, perennial League One strugglers Blackpool. But when you factor in each coach’s individual FM ability, quite literally any team could clinch the cup come the final.
And it’s all for a good cause, too. Well, one far more important than football, anyway, with fans being encouraged to drop a few quid onto mental health charity (and proud sponsor of the tournament) Mind’s justgiving page. Brilliant work done by brilliant people in an increasingly trying time deserves it, we think.
Any juicy fixtures?
Ohhhh yes. The full list of matches can be viewed further down, but the picks of the lot include old First Division rivals Leeds and Forest facing off; a south coast clash between Portsmouth and Plymouth, and a fierce cross-city derby between eternal enemies Bristol Rovers and Bristol City.
Full fixture list
Mansfield Town v Northampton Town
Wigan Athletic v Rotherham United
Middlesbrough v Rochdale
Leeds United v Nottingham Forest
Leyton Orient v Tranmere Rovers
Scunthorpe United v Carlisle United
Huddersfield Town v Oldham Athletic
Doncaster Rovers v Fulham
Birmingham City v Swindon Town
Southend United v Bradford City
Preston North End v Crawley Town
Derby County v Swansea City
Crewe Alexandra v Wycombe Wanderers
Lincoln City v Stoke City
West Brom v Coventry City
Forest Green v Macclesfield Town
Charlton Athletic v Colchester United
Portsmouth v Plymouth Argyle
Port Vale v Ipswich Town
Bristol Rovers v Bristol City
Peterborough United v QPR
AFC Wimbledon v Walsall
The following teams received byes to the second round:
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