A few weeks ago I criticised the way in which Sky constantly fiddle with the Premier League fixture list, but at least they know how to present the game itself, something that ITV seem to be struggling to grasp.

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Any worthwhile programme has to have a sense of continuity in order to hold the viewer’s attention, but their FA Cup highlights show was a veritable dog’s dinner.

While I appreciate that commercial stations will have advertising breaks, surely they don’t have to be taken between a game and its analysis? At one point I was starting to think that the football was simply being used to fill in until another batch of adverts were ready to roll, but maybe the incessant breaks were necessary to allow the make up artists to buff up Neil Warnock’s face.

What on earth has happened to the ex-QPR manager and full-time Grant Holt obsessive? Clearly there is some sort of image change going on, but who decided that a combination of the face of a waxwork and the trousers of a South American tango dancer would be a good look for a 63-year-old Englishman?

Once again City were given the absolute minimum coverage although this didn’t prove a handicap to Warnock who managed to get his customary snipe at Holt in while discussing a completely different game. None of this, of course, detracted from the fact that City were in the fifth round, which is heady stuff given our woeful cup record in recent years.

Of course, our success in the competition creates an interesting dilemma for manager and fans alike. It has always been the case that survival in the Premier League was the primary goal this season, and I’m sure that most of us could have lived with another FA Cup failure if it ensured that we stayed up. However, even though the line-ups against Burnley and West Brom saw a number of changes from recent league games, we have continued to progress.

Like a lot of older fans I remember all too well our Milk Cup triumph in 1985 being followed by relegation at the end of the season. There is no doubt that a cup run can be a distraction, but I get the feeling that nothing will be allowed to get in the way of our primary purpose, whatever happens against Leicester.

The simple fact is that winning is a habit, so progress in the cup, as long as it doesn’t result in too many injuries or suspensions, could actually complement the squad’s efforts to tick off the remaining points to our initial target of 40. In fact the cup games have been useful in providing more competitive action for the fringe players, given the sporadic nature of reserve team fixtures.

However, in case anyone needed a reminder of how tough it’s going to be to get the remaining 11 points to take us to that figure, they got it at Sunderland, where our performance was as poor as I’ve seen under Lambert. As I’ve said many times, there are no easy games in this league, but it was disappointing to see another team clearly wanting it more than us on the night.

Having said that, everyone has bad days at the office, and the players have shown time and time again that they can bounce back.

It would be ridiculous to go overboard about one game and I, for one, am confident that normal service will be resumed on Saturday, when I expect a great atmosphere at Carrow Road with a big crowd getting behind the team and cheering them to three points.


Previous columns by Robin Sainty