Belfast Telegraph

It has been a cup and down week for Wigan and the two Robertos

By Billy Weir

A little bit of my love for the FA Cup returned on Saturday as Wigan Athletic completed the double for Manchester United by seeing off City.

I wasn't convinced to start with, the daft kick-off time, the lashing rain, Adrian Chiles and two managers called Roberto – it wasn't like this when I was a kid.

Like the old days though there was a choice of where to watch, ITV not up against the Beeb but ESPN who, before they're hung out to dry by BT Sport's arrival, handy given the lack of studio meant they were soaked, ripped the backside out of the day by starting before the caretaker had even arrived at Wembley.

Hour upon hour of stuff and nonsense ensued before the 'build-up' began at 2.30pm, a mere six hours later, but when two Wombles (Orinoco and Great Uncle Bulgaria, if I'm not mistaken) appeared behind Ray Stubbs as he walked up Wembley Way, I feared I was starting to hallucinate.

On the touchline in front of the ESPN kitchen island, Stubbs was joined by an umbrella-wielding panel of Craig Burley, Paul Jewell, Kevin Keegan and John Barnes with Burley protesting that 'this isn't a shower.' We'll be the judge of that.

It was off down memory lane then and the 1973 Final when Sunderland upset the odds to beat the fancied Leeds managed by? Yes, Roberto Stokoe – you see, football history does repeat itself.

The highlight though was a pre-match interview with Liam Gallagher who explained that 'these footballers will never get the same buzz as I got playing here.' I don't doubt that for a second but Lucozade isn't quite as buzzy as other things.

There was then panic as the oasis of calm turned a bit nastier.

"When you're getting beat, you just want to cause violence and stuff," explained the wordsmith.

"But when you're winning you want to kiss people and make babies." Good to see the rhythm and blues method of contraception was out in Manchester then.

The obligatory appearance of Curly Watts followed before Jon Champion's deep and meaningless introduction and like Wigan I got through to half-time unscathed.

A quick rub down and it was off to ITV where we were told we had a game on our hands but Roy Keane was more concerned that Callum McManaman was giving 'Clinchy' a torrid time. Is that not a place in Co. Down?

This point was picked up by fellow Irishman Andy O'Townsend who barked: "If I was Vincent Kompany I'd be out there saying to Gael Clichy 'is there any chance of you preventing McManaman from keeping on running past you and whipping it into the box?'" but he was probably more concerned at being a village in Co Down at this stage.

And then a goal, history in the making as Ben Watson scored in the final minute, Wigan owner Dave Whelan who broke his leg in the final in 1961 getting closure at last.

"Dave Whelan's Wembley return looks set to be a happy return, this is the biggest upset since the Crazy Gang," said a hugely excited Clive Tyldesley.

"Great delivery," responded a not hugely excited O'Townsend, but Clive was on a roll telling us that Watson's 'claim to fame is he looks like Prince Harry.' Well, he did come from Palace ...

"The FA Cup is writing fairytales again and not since the Crazy Gang won for Wimbledon in 1988 has the cup final seen a crazier result," continued Clive labouring the point a tad.

"That was a Crazy Gang goal, that was Lawrie Sanchez's goal repeated by Ben Watson," he added, with Watson now in tears, not of joy but realising that he could be managing Northern Ireland at some point in the future. Prince Harry the ruler of the Windsor domain – a scary thought for us all.

So joy unconfined for for Roberto Martinez (pictured hailing a taxi), Wigan, and misery (and vast sums of cash) for Roberto Mancini. The traditional curtain dropper of the football season did not disappoint. What's that? There's still the sack, relegation and new jobs to go to, ah, the romance of it all.

Belfast Telegraph


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