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Roker Ramble: It’s 2022 - and you thought you’d seen the last of big Mike Ashley? Think again!

Lots of people have lots of problems in football this week: including Mike Ashley, Chester City and Wigan Athletic.

Photo by Kirsty O’Connor/PA Images via Getty Images

Ashley sticks the boot into Staveley

Hooray! Did you think just because Britain’s premier naff tracksuit & golf detritus flogger no longer owned the cartoon army up the road, that he would never appear again on the pages of the Roker Ramble?


He’s back! Just hold on while he pulls out a wedge of £50s, and sits down to face another select committee.

Actually, it’s not that. This time, he’s bringing legal action against Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghedoussi at the High Court for as yet unspecified reasons. Papers have yet to be served, but when they are, I imagine it’ll be inside a giant, non-returnable mug.

Oxford United v Newcastle United - FA Cup Fourth Round: Replay
The look on her face Lee, it was priceless
Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

As if Mandy didn’t have enough to deal with. When it isn’t Sean Dyche pissing himself with laughter as he rasps “40 million! no 60! 100 million pounds!” down the phone to her on one line as she chucks good money after bad for Chris Wood, it’s her lawyers on the other telling her her presence yet again might be required down in London.

The poor woman has seen more legal points than Premier League points in the last few months. I wonder: if you get nine high court appearances, do you get the 10th for free?

Perhaps it’s because Big Mike is miffed that the Sports Direct signs have been removed - but don’t worry my man, when the summer comes the sun will bleach the still visible mark they’ve left nicely onto the faded corrugated iron at the top of the main stand, forever immortalising your wonderful company at the Cathedral on the Hill. Emblazoned there, like a big immovable tattoo. Gives the phrase “Sports Direct brand” a whole different meaning.

* Ashley is also reportedly bidding to take control of Derby County, but the above is much funnier. Unless they pass the Mags on the way down to League One...

Chester threatened with legal action

Quite hard, really, doing the ramble in the middle of a pandemic - it’s basically covid for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So much so that I’ve deleted all my news apps. I’m taking the fingers-in-ears approach to things in 2022.

Talking of putting their digits in their heads, the good folk at Chester City have started the year by having a bit of a legal dust-up with the local council and cops about breaching the covid regulations. What covid regulations, I hear you ask? Seeing as Boris Johnson has basically insisted we all have huge house parties, and share cutlery with each other at mealtimes.

Well, if you’re a fan of a football pub quiz, lower league football or simply studying the English-Welsh border on Google Maps, you’ll know that the line between England and Wales runs directly through the car park and ticket office of the Deva Stadium. Meaning rather strangely that fans could gather outside the ground, but not, strictly speaking, enter for a match.

If only someone hadn’t sneezed when drawing that border

Many on the English side of the border are rallying behind the club, including local Chester MP Christian Matheson, who described the letter as a “joke” that must have been cooked up “by an aggrieved Wrexham fan.”

“We are an English club playing in an English City” fumed Chester City on the socials this week, apparently thumbing their noses at the prospect of a fine when the Seals entertain Brackley on the 15th January.

“The football club is registered as an English football club, we are an English football club, in an English city, playing under an England FA in an English county” said Jeff Banks, the club’s director of fan engagement.

Ah well that cleans it up. Nothing to see here then.

“However, the pitch is in Wales.”


Wigan bid to extend the season

Here’s one to make you laugh - Wigan are getting their knickers in a twist because they’ve just been too damn successful in the cups, their players are made of glass and they’ve been skewered by the covid.

That’s right, it turns out that because they will have to play the remainder of the season with a maximum of three free midweeks, chairman Talal al Hammad says he’s asked the EFL to extend the season.

“Playing a football game every three days for a hundred days is unhealthy. It is inevitable that the players will suffer from increased stress and pressure which could then lead to physical and mental injury to our valued players and team” bleated Wigan’s supremo.

“Plus, Max Power is a huge fan of Celebrity Masterchef and just has to keep his Tuesday nights free.”

Okay, I made that last bit up.

I suspect sympathy or understanding will be thin on the ground from most quarters, Talal. Have you made sure your players were jabbed, removing the requirement for self-isolation as a close contact? Did you not think that just chucking the EFL Trophy game against Oldham (like we did) and the FA Cup (like we did) would have been the better idea?

Oxford United v Wigan Athletic - Sky Bet League One - Kassam Stadium
My legs are killing me here mate
Photo by Tess Derry/PA Images via Getty Images

And as for injuries - they are an occupational hazard of the game in any circumstances. Just ask Corry Evans who took a sledgehammer to the face in the form of - the recalled - Anthony Patterson at Wycombe. Sadly, these things happen.

Further, pleading psychological injury is a bit of a dangerous path to go down, as many will interpret that as “playing football is making my mental health suffer” which isn’t the greatest of looks.

The man always good for an opinion on Twitter, Andy Holt of Accrington Stanley, pointed out that his side had to play 31 games after January 8th last year - and the EFL wouldn’t budge for them. A quick look back at their results over this period highlighted just how patchy their form was - it was pretty clear the extra workload had an effect.

Plus, if you look at previous EFL Trophy finalists across the last few seasons, most saw their form go down the toilet post-final, including ours (twice). Is this a coincidence? I don’t think so.

According to some bloke called Alan Nixon on Twitter (he works for the Sun so insert pinch of salt here) it’s cos extending the season might clash with the Queen’s jubilee. Yes, Alan but what happens if she dies before then?

Happily, it’s not our problem this time around; there’s no doubt that the Latics are currently meandering up the smelliest of creeks minus a paddle, but the truth is that any attempt to extend the season can only hurt Sunderland AFC. In the climate of ultimate self-protection that almost all other football clubs have chosen to embrace, I say no dice.

Now lace up your boots, get on the pitch and crack on.


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