Sunderland travel to Fleetwood on Friday as the two sides meet for the second time this month. Joey Barton’s side beat a youthful Sunderland team 2-1 in the Papa John’s Trophy, with the Fisherman unbeaten in five matches against the Black Cats.
Conceding in added time to draw with Doncaster, combined with Tuesday’s round of fixtures, has seen Phil Parkinson’s side drop to eighth in the League One table. Sunderland are one point from the play-off positions, but eight points behind leaders Hull.
Ahead of the match, I spoke to Fleetwood fan Jonny Tombs. We discussed his team’s potential promotion challenge, as well as what Sunderland fans can expect from the match.
MC: After an inconsistent start to the season, Fleetwood have won five of their last six League One matches. Is your promotion bid starting to pick up pace?
JT: It is hard to say in such a difficult league, but recently I would say yes, I definitely think it has started and that we are on the right track, especially with the calibre of players brought in. We are playing some great football at the minute.
MC: Much of Fleetwood’s recruitment was completed late in the transfer window. Are fans frustrated by this, considering the club was in the relegation zone after four matches having been forced to play many academy players?
JT: You will find a few disgruntled fans, but I wasn’t too worried, myself – I mean we have some class young talent and we have an unbelievable set up in Poolfoot, so why don’t we use them more?
I think we’ll see a couple of them pushing into the first-team throughout the season.
MC: Joey Barton has not been in the limelight so far this season. Is he starting to behave himself more on the touchline or is he still a fiery character?
JT: Haha it’s hard to say with none of us actually allowed to be at the games. We have had a few dodgy decisions, played ‘dirty’ teams and been on the receiving end of some bad challenges recently – and although we don’t see him we can certainly hear him! I am all for the passion and fight that Joey brings.
MC: Fleetwood are League One’s second top goal scorers with 24 goals in 13 games. What is it about your style of play that enables the players to score so frequently?
JT: We are seeing players get into open spaces a lot more and the quick tempo passing is helping that a lot. It is great to watch.
Also, we don’t seem scared to hit the ball, whereas for years it was frustrating seeing us try to walk the ball into the net. Also Callum Camps is out of this world!
MC: Speaking of Camps, he has already scored double figures this season since joining on a Bosman from Rochdale. Are you surprised by how prolific he has been?
JT: Having watched Callum play against us quite a few times it is no surprise that he can score goals, however I don’t think anyone expected him to score this many. Apparently, Barton and Camps’ dad have now demanded 40 goals this season!
MC: Sunderland defender Conor McLaughlin has recently impressed in a new role at centre-back as part of a back three. Is that a position you could have seen him playing in from his time at Fleetwood?
JT: I actually think he filled in a few times at centre-back while with us. Maybe as time goes and the legs go a bit it would be an ideal position for him, but at Fleetwood he was a right-back – and a very good one, too.
MC: Fleetwood’s goal music has attracted attention on social media from fans throughout the EFL discussing how it really rubs salt in the wounds after their team has conceded. Do Fleetwood fans enjoy it?
JT: This has been brought up so many times. It was always hit and miss as half loved it for the meaning of it and what it means for Fleetwood, but the other half thought it was cringey and wanted rid.
Nowadays, we love it – particularly because it winds other fans up when they hear it more than once in a game. Especially when they hear it four to five times in a game.
MC: Both managers are likely to select completely different sides from when the clubs met in the EFL Trophy earlier this month. Who are the eleven players you expect Barton to pick?
JT: This is a tough one because we have so many players that walk straight into the first team selection and how do you change a winning team?
For me it won’t be much different to the Plymouth game, however I expect Ched Evans to start.
Fleetwood’s line-up vs Plymouth: (4-2-3-1) Leutwiler (GK), Edwards, Connolly (C), Mulgrew, Andrew, Finley, Rossiter, Morris, Camps, Burns, Madden.
MC: Sunderland have failed to beat Fleetwood in five competitive matches. Do you think that streak is going to end on Friday?
JT: Absolutely not. I think we are a bit of a bogey team for Sunderland and with the way we are playing I don’t see us losing, I hope this doesn’t come back to bite me!