First and Second division sides would play in mini-leagues
with others from their division. Winners of these sections then
went into an all-in draw for the two-leg quarter finals. Semis and
the final were played on neutral grounds.
The format was altered several times between the early
70s and the mid 80s before the current set-up was established in
1984-85. All matches are decided on the night with extra time and
penalties if necessary to determine a winner.
Rangers were the first winners in 1946-47 and
again two years later. But, surprisingly for the next dozen years
the Ibrox club's name is absent from the winners roll. East Fife won in 1948 as a lower division side, their success just as unique
in this competition as in the Scottish Cup a decade previously.
Fife sides in general found the League Cup to be an
exciting competition with both Raith Rovers and Dunfermline reaching the Final in the early years and Cowdenbeath's record
attendance is for a League Cup tie against Rangers.
The competition was won by several clubs during its
first fifteen years. Motherwell presaged their Scottish Cup
win of 1952 with League Cup success the year beforehand. Dundee won twice in succession in the early 50s. Both Hearts and Aberdeen had their names engraved on the trophy and East
Fife became the first club to win it three times.
But the Old Firm were stirring. Celtic followed
up a win over Partick Thistle in the 1956-57 Final with an
amazing 7-1 triumph over Rangers the following season in
a match which is still talked about fervently by their fans nearly
half a century later. And at the dawn of the 1960s Rangers re-emerged with two successive wins. After Hearts had claimed
a fourth success in 1962-63 the Old Firm took over.
If it hadn't been for some inexplicable Final defeats
by Celtic, this era would have been one of complete Old Firm
domination. Two successive Rangers victories were followed
by five in a row from Celtic. There were also three successive
Old Firm Finals with the 1965-66 game's attendance of 107,609 setting a never to be beaten record.
But after their five wins Celtic started losing
in the Final with regularity. Indeed the Parkhead side reached an
incredible fourteen finals in succession but lost seven of the last
eight. Hibs, Aberdeen and Dundee all profited at Celtic's expense while they also lost three times to Rangers. The
most amazing of the lot however, was in 1971-72 when Partick
Thistle thrashed Celtic 4-1, having led 4-0 at the interval.
The emergence of the "New Firm" of Dundee United and Aberdeen became apparent with the Tannadice
club's two successive wins, the latter seeing them defeat neighbours Dundee at their Dens Park ground. Another non-Old Firm Final
saw Aberdeen defeat Hibernian in 1985-86 to complete
manager Alex Ferguson's full set of Scottish honours.
But Rangers were a force too, winning six times
during this period, twice against Celtic who were going through
a miserable time in this competition. The Bhoys' 1982-83 win was
their solitary success between 1975-1998. And to rub it in the 1983-84
Final saw them lose to an Ally McCoist hat-trick.
The end of this era saw some of the finest football
ever played in the competition as Rangers and Aberdeen faced each other for three seasons running, Rangers winning
on penalties after a 3-3 draw, winning again, this time 3-2 before
the Dons claimed revenge in 1989-90 with a 2-1 win in extra
There were memories of times past with two non-Old
Firm Finals as Hibs beat Dunfermline and Aberdeen took care of Dundee but for most of the 90s the League Cup
was an Old Firm possession. Rangers won a further six times
to take their tally to a record 22. And Celtic finally regained
their form winning three of the last five played to take their total
to 12 won from 24 contested.
But, just like the 70s, the abiding memory of the
90s was a Celtic defeat. Despite leading with only three
minutes to go they were pegged back and taken to extra time by First
Division Raith Rovers in the 1994-95 Final. At 2-2 after
extra time it was the Fife side who held their nerve to win 6-5
on penalty kicks and ensure that European football would be played
at Starks Park.
In recent years that European place for the League
Cup winners has gone - devaluing the competition in the eyes of
some. Not least the big two, who have often played under-strength
sides in the early stages. But, as anyone who has witnessed their
supporters celebrations after winning the tournament will tell you,
their fans appetite for trophy success is undiminished still.
2004 was a refreshing change for the tournament. Livingston and Hibernian provided an Old Firm-free Final for the first
time in eight years with Livvy winning 2-0 to clinch their first
major trophy. Hibs returned to triumph against Kilmarnock three years later.
Brian Laudrup: The outstandingly talented Dane
won just one League Cup winner's medal with Rangers. But it was
in the thrilling 4-3 win against Hearts in November 1996.