Arsenal for the Cup – Why Warnock is great – And Up the Witches!

Arsenal's Lucas Perez (second left) celebrates scoring his sides opening goal at Sutton in the FA C

Arsenal's Lucas Perez (second left) celebrates scoring his sides opening goal at Sutton in the FA Cup. The Gunners haven't fell victim to any giant-killing this season. - Credit: PA

My mate Pete is an Arsenal fan.

Gets the job done - Neil Warnock

Gets the job done - Neil Warnock - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

It’s not an easy ride.

I sometimes text him after a Gooners’ passing masterclass has resulted in victory – ‘In Arsene we trust’ I glibly let him know... sometimes he replies.

I steer clear when the ‘masterclass’ is anything but (don’t mention Bayern Munich) and everyone in north London questions Arsene Wenger’s ability to coach an U13 team, let alone the Gunners.

It is what it is at the Emirates these days.

Which brings me on to this season’s FA Cup semi-finals, where the big four of Chelsea, Manchester City, Spurs and Arsenal are all set to square up – the Gooners against City, Spurs against Chelsea.

Yep, from 736 teams, including Penrith, West Allotment Celtic, Ryhope Colliery Welfare and nearer to home, Walsham-le-Willows, who kicked off the competition back in August last year, we are down to four – a final four that would grace any semi-final line-up.

Exciting action from Ipswich Witches rider Nico Covatti - but it's time for a Witches trophy in 2017

Exciting action from Ipswich Witches rider Nico Covatti - but it's time for a Witches trophy in 2017 - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

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And that of course includes Arsenal.

I hope they win it.

Not because my mate Pete will celebrate heartily in Spain with me this year - no doubt donning a new pair of, ‘Arsenal FA Cup winners 2017’ Speedos, should they be successful. Or to keep his blood pressure under control.

But because Arsenal have treated the competition – this season anyhow – with respect.

All eyes in the FA Cup this season have rightly been on Lincoln City and to a lesser extent Sutton United. They have lit up the competition, especially Danny Cowley’s Imps.

They have given us wonderful memories in a competition that was dying on its feet a few years ago.

File photo dated 24-01-2016 of Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: F

File photo dated 24-01-2016 of Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday February 17, 2017. Arsene Wenger has said he will decide his future as Arsenal manager in March or April. See PA story SOCCER Arsenal. Photo credit should read Adam Davy/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

We owe the Imps and Sutton much for all the enjoyment they have bestowed on us ‘neutrals’ and the fact it took a top-four Premier League side to halt their march to Wembley, says much.

But that’s why I take my hat off to Arsenal and especially Wenger.

Far too often, for me anyhow, pilloried by many Arsenal fans (Gooners fans, you really ought to try following a team who have spent 15 years in the Championship!), Wenger avoided the banana skins of Sutton and Lincoln, unlike other League teams, (yes I know, including Ipswich).

While others were too busy worrying about finishing mid-table in the Premier League or the Championship (it’s the ambition that kills you don’t you think?), Wenger took few risks – decided it would take virtually his complete Premier League starting XI to see off the Imps – and he succeeded.

The Gunners, including my mate Pete, are on their way to another Wembley semi.

And good luck to them.

I’m a great fan of Neil Warnock

Gets the job done as far as I’m concerned and this Saturday Ipswich Town will try to take points off a Cardiff City side he has turned round since he arrived last season.

Whatever Warnock lacks, it isn’t front.

Having recently signed a new contract at Cardiff, Warnock went straight on the offensive this week.

“I’m in a unique situation for a manager because I’m not bothered if I get the sack - they can sack me tomorrow if they want,” he said.

“If I want another job, I can get another job. That’s not being conceited, I just don’t see many good managers around.”

You are not wrong Neil.

Far too many iPads, scribble pads, dieticians and analytics for my liking – the game is about character – and results.

Which brings me onto my Woodbridge U18 EJA team.

We are through to the Suffolk FA U18 cup final for a third consecutive year after a 1-0 win over a decent Haverhill Colts last weekend.

It wasn’t pretty and we don’t have a video of the game to study afterwards to prepare ourselves for the final.

There was no pre-match meal. masseurs or luxury coach travel – our little mini bus didn’t let us down.

Just 16 honest lads, a bucketful of heart, team spirit to die for and a never-say-die attitude.

That’s the football I love.

It’s Ipswich Witches press and practice day on Monday.

One of the highlights of the year at the Suffolk Archant Sports desk.

How we love the thought of summer just around the corner. But, on a more serious note, the Witches need to up their game. The club has been trophyless for too long – make 2017 the year boys!