Matthew Crichton: Crewe have won just one of their opening 12 matches so far in League One, what factors have led to this decline in form from last season?
Tim Robinson: We sold all our best players from last season, such as Perry Ng, Harry Pickering, Charlie Kirk, Ryan Wintle and Omar Beckles. Two of our other top players, Owen Dale and Tommy Lowery have been involved in contract wrangles.
Owen Dale went on strike and has been shipped out to Blackpool. Tommy Lowery is not being considered for selection. We also had two experienced players that we brought in to replace those leaving (Tommie Hoban, Aberdeen and Shaun MacDonald, Rotherham) retire just as the window was closing.
MC: On the back of your poor start, has pressure started to grow on David Artell or are the fans still behind him?
TR: Dave Artell has a lot of credit in the bank, and a lot of the things that have happened at the start of this season have been beyond his control.
But Crewe fans are a fairly fickle bunch and some have already started asking questions, especially around tactics, team selection and substitutions. In reality, the board are famously patient, and it’s absolutely certain that Dave Artell will still be in charge for the likely League 2 campaign next season.
MC: The club did not pay a single transfer fee for a player this summer, given some of the money being spent by other clubs do Crewe fans see staying up as a good achievement?
TR: It is extremely rare for Crewe to pay transfer fees, and especially in the post-COVID era, it was always unlikely that we would this year. The stated aim in the summer was for Crewe to improve on last season’s top half finish. With everything that has happened since, staying up is definitely now the target.
MC: One player Crewe did recruit from Sunderland was left-back Callum McFadzean - how has he performed so far this season?
TR: We’ve barely seen him in the league, but he’s been okay when he’s played.
MC: Another ex-Sunderland player Mika Mandron hit double figures for Crewe last season, but have the goals started to dry up?
TR: Mika Mandron gives 100% every week for the cause, and even though 3 goals doesn’t look like a fantastic return on the face of it, he’s been starved of service and we’ll be much the worse when he leaves at the end of this season.
MC: Crewe lost three excellent academy graduates in Charlie Kirk, Owen Dale and Ryan Wintle in the summer. Is it the Crewe way to accept these departures and allow the next batch of players to come through?
TR: Yes, it’s the Crewe way that when a group of young players are ready to move on, we have a dip. The academy players that replace them are inevitably not ready, but these lads only develop by playing matches.
Crewe fans will now wait patiently for the next generation, made up of Josh Lundstram, Rio Adebisi, Travis Johnson, Tyreece Onyeka, Billy Sass-Davies and Regan Griffiths to get to the stage where they are ready to compete at this level.
MC: Of the players you recruited other than McFadzean, who has impressed you the most and why?
TR: Scott Robertson has been the most consistent. He reminds Crewe fans old enough to remember him of Neil Lennon with his combative midfield style, and ability to take a ball under pressure and find a team mate.
MC: Who are the eleven players that you expect Artell to select against Sunderland and what style of play can Lee Johnson’s men expect to encounter?
TR: I have no idea what our line up will be or who will play, at the moment we change team and formation from week to week. Saturday was by far our worst performance and result of the season, losing 3-0 at Fleetwood and not registering a shot on goal until the 86th minute.
I would be reasonably confident that we will play Will Jaaskelainen in goal, without whom we would have lost by far more than three. I think Scott Robertson will play in midfield. After that your guess is as good as mine. Lee Johnson can expect a totally different Crewe side to last season. We can’t defend, pass or create, we have no leaders, and the chance of us salvaging anything from any game when we go behind is zero.
MC: Sunderland staged a late comeback to draw with Crewe away from home last season, what is your honest prediction of the score this time around?
TR: Crewe 0-4 Sunderland. Easiest game of the season so far for Sunderland. Guaranteed 3 points.