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The Roker Ramble: Sunderland could do worse than to look to Wigan as an example of how to go on

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Well run small teams beat badly run big ones, the Coventry renaissance, Leicester for the Cup and Neil Warnocks female impersonations - it’s your weekly dose of the Roker Ramble!

UP THE TICS!
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I was hoping that Paul Cook, manager of Wigan Athletic was the same Paul Cook that was the Sex Pistols drummer. Alas, it was not to be, but don’t let that influence your impression of the team. I was vaguely aware that Wigan were doing okay, but nothing could prepare me for their performance in the FA Cup last weekend against West Ham.

And it wasn’t just that it was against a David Moyes side - although that was a bonus - it was the style of play, the creativity, the complete team effort. It was entertaining, fabulous to watch, a real credit to the whole set-up at the club, and West Ham were lucky to only go down two-nil.

If there’s any magic left in the cup, then it’s at this stage that it’s apparent. It was a real privilege to watch not only Wigan, but Newport County from League Two who were so unlucky not to beat Spurs, and Notts County, who should have done the same to Swansea.

Newport County AFC v Portsmouth - Johnstone's Paint Trophy Quarter Final
Newport County trial the new ‘stealth’ linesman
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

What leapt out at you from each of these clubs was the presence of a passionate and committed chairman, with a vision for the future of the club, that fed down the chain to all parts of the organisation, the manager, the players – everyone connected with the club, who all bought into it and are delivering real success.

And for a graphic example of the difference a good chairman can make – which of the north-east clubs are going to be in the Premier League next season?

Only Manchester City have won more games that Wigan this year - that’s how successful they are. And they’re a small unfashionable town full of rugby league fans, with little football history and they’re about to be bought out, bringing new resources into the club, and you have to ask yourself... why can’t Sunderland do that?

If ever you needed another symbolic picture of our current situation, it’ll be Wigan with the resources that they’ve had available over the past few years passing us as they come up to the Championship and we go down to League One.

Milton Keynes Dons v Coventry City - The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round
The single steward at the MK Dons stadium was facing an uphill task
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Coventry City – not a name to bandy about lightly in these parts and rightly so, but I think the time has come to draw a line under the past, which in my mind, ended with the death of Jimmy Hill. Lord knows the club has suffered enough since its fall from grace, and it’s still run by the same morons that wanted to introduce a ’text-a-substitute’ scheme during games where the fans could decide who came on. So I say let ‘bygones be bygones’ and I was pleased to see them doing well at the weekend, especially the fact that as the away team they had more supporters at MK Dons than the home side.

Mind you, they did riot a bit when their goal went in...

So, in terms of tips for the Cup, well, Manchester City want to win all four competitions, and if they’re serious then they’re going to take some stopping. And by the luck of the draw, they’re away to Wigan in the next round which should be a fabulous game.

Spurs, Chelsea and Manchester United are still in the draw and all have relatively easy ties in the next round. Chelsea are already making excuses about their thin squad, and have just bought Ross Barkley, so they’re not going anywhere. Spurs still don’t look like they really want to win anything so I’m not sure where the rumours come from about Pochettino going to Real Madrid. It looks therefore like Manchester United are the only ones with the desire and resources to knock City off their perch.

Tottenham Hotspur Training Session
I love it here, I’d never go to Spain
Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Unless – I do quite fancy Leicester though. True, they’ve had relatively easy ties so far – Fleetwood Town in the last round, who did force a replay but it may as well have been Fleetwood Mac to be honest, and a not unimpressive romp past Peterborough this weekend. They’re at home to Sheffield United in the next round and then if they miss the big boys in the last eight, anything could happen. And, it’s noticeable what a good team Claude Puel and Michael Appleton seem to be making, so happy days for Leicester.

Elsewhere, with so many games being televised, it was good to see just how many female commentators there are now in football – lets hope the BBC pay them the same as their male counterparts. And VAR stirred up the controversy again.

First of all, it was at some games; the Liverpool v West Brom match for instance, but not at others – for instance the Cardiff v Man City game. Why not? What is it about the introduction of VAR that makes the FA continue to get it so wrong?

Liverpool v West Bromwich Albion - The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round
Waiting for Game of Thrones to come on....
Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

The Liverpool v West Brom game caused all the fuss, not because the wrong decisions were made but due to the length of time it took to reach them, which to be honest completely broke the game up. And the answer, which is obvious to everyone except those that are implementing it, was summed up by Dion Dublin:

If the Football Association went to talk to the Rugby Association, then they’d get it right.

And I really don’t think it’s any more complicated than that. Why does the referee need to have a screen on the touchline? It’s absurd. The referee asks the VAR for an opinion – he should take it and move on with the game.

Cardiff City v Manchester City - The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round
There’s only one person looking at the ball here....
Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images

Neil Warnock is a qualified referee – I wonder if he agreed with the yellow card his player got for trying to break Leroy Sane’s leg, putting him out of action for a couple of months? And I agree with Pep’s plea for more protection for players.

There’s a subtle difference between keeping the game physical and just hacking down players who are too good for you. Anyone who saw it won’t forget the treatment dealt out to Pele at his peak at the 66 World Cup – or so I’m told.

As usual I’m easily distracted, and the attention was drawn once again to Neil Warnocks’ appearance.

I’m becoming convinced that he’s having botox injections and with the right wig and make-up could pass for a Joan Rivers or Dolly Parton. But then I’ve been having a hard time at work recently.

Cardiff City v Manchester City - The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round
Stand by your Man
Photo by Victoria Haydn/Man City via Getty Images