Will we ever break our quarter-final hoodoo?

April 1981. Bucks Fizz had just won the Eurovision Song Contest, Brixton was on fire, Ronald Reagan had recently survived an assassination attempt, and the great Joe Louis passed away. More importantly, a Paul Power goal would see us sneak past Ipswich at Villa Park to reach our eighth FA Cup Final. Nearly three decades later we're still waiting to not only repeat that feat, but to make a semi-final of any major competition.

Since that tie against Ipswich we've generally been miserable in knockout tournaments, occasional quarter-finals raising expectation but coming with their customary breaking of hearts. In that time giants like Millwall, Cardiff and Brighton have had their day out in the sun. Oxford and Luton have won the League Cup, Leicester twice. Even Plymouth, Oldham and Chesterfield have made the last four of either of the pots at some point!

The last few seasons have been especially torturous, us falling short during each of the last four. April's UEFA Cup exit at the hands of Martin Jol's Hamburg perhaps the most gutting given the performance. The season before, we kindly allowed a ten-man Spurs side to beat us in our own back-yard in the League Cup. Then there was Blackburn sending us tumbling in front of an especially animated City support, and the year before Dean Ashton beating us pretty much on his own.

Last night's beating of Championship side Scunthorpe means we've again reached the last eight of one of the major knockouts. The luck of the draw, specifically the chance of another home tie, could see us finally break our duck. Though some of the names left in the hat are those of the better Premier League sides, given the tendency to rest certain players and give youth a chance, we might well like our chances against anyone.

Sides who might think twice about playing weakened sides may have their hands forced, and the fixture computer could have worked in our favour. Chelsea, for instance, have to travel to Arsenal and here either side of their next round tie. Spurs have tricky trips to Villa and Everton bookending the quarter-finals. United, too, have to go to Fratton Park and Upton Park before and after their tie, respectively.

In all honesty, i'm not the biggest fan of the League Cup. The general apathy regards it seems widespread, reflected in most cases by dwindling attendances. As fans starved of silverware for so long, though, we'd certainly take it. Whilst it's not the FA Cup, and a top four, even top six place in the league would be a bigger achievement, it could finally mean we can get the monkey off our backs, and something in the trophy cabinet barring dust, the odd spider, and of course the Thomas Cook Trophy.

With four of the six sides left involved in some sort of European competition, and two looking like they've got relegation battles on their hands, ourselves and Spurs might well fancy our chances. Now we've a few players coming back from injury, too, the extra games shouldn't have much if any toll on the squad, if anything the extra football could work in our favour.

We'll quite likely get the toughest draw possible, a tie against Arsenal or Spurs, both who've been quite fond of knocking us out of the cups over the years. Pompey or Blackburn at Eastlands would appear to be the easiest route, but we're going to have to face a top side somewhere along the way, so it shouldn't really matter if we're paired with one at this stage. Like the tournament or not, though, a trip to Wembley, not to get too far ahead of ourselves, would be fantastic. Not wanting to be unduly pessimistic, but even a semi-final would be a refreshing change!

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