Fair play Stoke, fair play. It takes a brave football club to stay in the hand for as long as you did when holding a pair of twos. The problem is, we all knew you were bluffing. Fans of QPR and Fulham probably allowed themselves a bit of a chuckle when they saw that Coventry City of League One had knocked their former manager out of the FA Cup in the 3rd Round. Having allowed Mark Hughes to slip to his rock bottom the Stoke owners had only one thing they could do to appease the fans. And with that, Hughes was gone.
Having worked so hard to beat Chelsea and win the thing last season, you would have thought Arsenal might have put up a little bit more of a fight to defend their FA Cup title against Nottingham Forest. Arsene Wenger was in the stands having been over-critical of recent refereeing decisions that have cost the side but he couldn’t even blame that on Sunday night. Arsenal were woeful and Forest didn’t even have to be that good to beat them, even slipping about when taking penalties. Mind you, this is what happens when you pick Matthieu Debuchy.
I can imagine the meeting in the Liverpool boardroom after Virgil van Dijk scored the winner, on debut, against Everton. “How long do you reckon we have?” someone will have said. “They will still be high on that until Sunday, announce it Saturday night”. Philippe Coutinho is off to Barcelona for £150m and Liverpool, frankly, should be laughing all the way to the Standard Chartered for getting that kind of money out them. Social media was alight with people reminding us what Klopp had “said” about Coutinho not going anywhere. Folks, it’s called playing the game to drive the price up. If you believe anything a manager says around transfers then you are a little bit daft. Liverpool played Barcelona like a Catalonian banjo and no, I have no idea whether they have banjos in Catalonia.
Far more entertaining than Manchester United’s late win over Derby County or Chelsea’s 0-0 horror show with Norwich City is the spat between Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte. There’d been a bit of press conference name calling in the last week which the tabloid hacks had great fun in pushing further. Jose was the first one to really bite, gently slipping in “well at least I have never been done for match-fixing” or words to that effect. Conte had been banned for four months in Italy for failing to report match-fixing related activity and Jose decided to go there in true Jeremy Kyle style. Conte fired back that Jose was a “small man” which did have a bit of a “well you smell” ring to it after Jose had laid the killer punch.
Burnley made the silly error of taking the lead against Manchester City and were made to pay in ten minutes of the second half. Ashley Barnes had the Clarets ahead but a highly cheeky quick free-kick which set up Aguero for the equaliser displeased Sean Dyche. Dyche, as ever, was a gentleman in defeat – voicing his displeasure in a non-theatrical kind of way which continues to make him the perfect Real Football Manager. City ended up winning 4-1 and the quadruple is still of interest.
Joe Hart has struggled to keep clean sheets for West Ham United and he will have been delighted to shut out their FA Cup opponents, especially as it was his old club. No, not Manchester City – you know they’ve already played. Shrewsbury Town. Yes, West Ham drew 0-0 at Gay Meadow giving Joe Hart what I am going to say is his first clean sheet for David Moyes’ men.
Elsewhere, Bournemouth were looking like they were doing their level best not to have the unnecessary distraction of an FA Cup run this season, trailing Wigan 2-0 at home. For some bizarre reason, they decided that getting beaten by a League One side might do more harm than good and got the game back to 2-2.
Huddersfield Town went about it all in the right spirit, beating Bolton Wanderers 2-1. I mean, even Alan Pardew got a win with his West Bromwich Albion side winning 2-0 down in Exeter. Southampton scored AND kept a clean sheet in their win over Fulham. The shocks kept rolling in with Watford seeing off the League Cup slayers of Manchester United, Bristol City, 3-0. That feeling you have is what it is like when you win Marco, it feels like October all over again, eh?
Swansea City and Wolves may well be trading places in the summer and they managed to conjure up a 0-0 draw at Molineux. Jamie Vardy is now so big-time he couldn’t even be bothered to play against his old club Fleetwood Town. OK, Vardy was actually injured and looked very happy to be at the club that gave him his break in league football and with the result being 0-0 there is every chance his groin will have recovered for the replay.
Newcastle United fans had something to cheer about as they saw off League Two leaders Luton Town 3-1. I didn’t see the Tottenham Hotspur vs AFC Wimbledon media coverage but I would imagine they brought up a full house of 1988, MK Dons, Crazy Gang and Vinnie Jones? If so, go to your nearest newsagent and collect your winnings. Spurs saw off the new Wimbledon 3-0.
As they are no longer in the Premier League, we rarely get the chance to point and laugh at Aston Villa and Sunderland but that is what the FA Cup is all about. Peterborough beat the former champions of Europe Villa 3-1 at Villa Park, turning Steve Bruce’s face even redder than normal. Sunderland lost 2-0 at Middlesbrough where Pulisball is making an immediate impact.