League Cup a stepping stone for Martinez and Hughes
League Cup glory may be Martinez and Hughes' passport to big time
The League Cup divides opinions.
Its relevance is a bone of contention.
It lacks the prestige of the FA Cup and the significance of the English Premier League.
Over the years, some giants have chosen to use the competition to rest their stars and give the reserves and youngsters a chance to shine.
But one man's meat is another man's poison.
Many others see the League Cup, or the Capital One Cup as it has been called since 2012, as a genuine shot at silverware.
For Roberto Martinez and Mark Hughes, the competition could be another step forward as they strive to reach the mountain top.
Martinez's Everton and Hughes' Stoke City reached the semi-finals yesterday morning (Singapore time).
And the two managers are one step closer to a piece of silverware, which on their CV will be solid evidence of their talent.
Everton were hardly troubled in a 2-0 away win over Middlesbrough in the quarter-finals, and many will remember how the Championship side overcame a strong Manchester United side on penalties at Old Trafford to book their spot in the last eight.
Spaniard Martinez has emerged as one of the brightest young managers in the English game in recent years.
He gave Wigan identity, and also collected his first major trophy there.
In his final season (2012/13) with the Latics, he led them to a stunning FA Cup triumph, beating Manchester City, no less, in the final.
It was enough to convince Everton that he was the man to take over after David Moyes moved to Old Trafford.
After taking over the reins at Goodison Park in 2013, Martinez married the team's inherent combative qualities with style.
The 42-year-old now has a fighting unit that can face down the toughest and dazzle the best, on their day.
Without the resources of the big clubs to adequately reinforce his squad and stop the outflow of talent, Martinez will struggle to sustain a challenge for the English Premier League title.
But joining Everton was a step up in his managerial career, and winning the League Cup may prove to be another stepping board to bigger and better things.
Hughes wants bigger and better and he is now one step away from Wembley.
Stoke manager Mark Hughes. PHOTO: REUTERS
A 2-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday took the Potters into the League Cup semi-finals for the first time since the 1971/72 season.
Unlike Martinez, the Welshman has briefly tasted life at the top.
In 2008, City paid Blackburn Rovers a then-world record compensation package reportedly worth £5 million ($10.6m) to clear the way for Hughes to take over from Sven-Goran Eriksson.
Three months later, City welcomed their new Middle-eastern owners, whose first present for Hughes was Real Madrid striker Robinho.
But a 10th-placed finish in the Premiership and a poor first half of the following season saw him sacked.
The 52-year-old former United striker has been trying to revive his career ever since, bit by bit.
Stints with Fulham and Queens Park Rangers followed, before Stoke appointed him in 2013.
At the Britannia Stadium, he has turned a physical side into a passing team.
His experience has made him one of the most streetwise managers in the Premiership. He still yearns for a shot at the big time, maybe one day even taking charge of United.
Silverware makes people sit up and take notice.
Martinez and Hughes could face each other in the last four when the semi-final draw is made today.
City will also be in the hat, possibly with a rejuvenated Liverpool, who faced Southampton at the St Mary's this morning, which makes it clear there are still big hurdles to overcome if Martinez and Hughes even dream of laying their hands on the League Cup.
But this a wonderful opportunity for the two managers to show off their ability on the big stage.