Matthew Crichton: Morecambe currently sit 20th in League One, just two points above the relegation zone, how are you adapting to life following your promotion from League Two?
Tom Collins: It’s been a learning curve! We started the season like a duck to water picking up some eye-catching results.
We beat Sheffield Wednesday at home, overcame a strong Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park, whilst drawing on the opening day to Ipswich 2-2 at Portman Road. Unbelievable stuff for a team playing League 2 last season.
After beating Lincoln comfortably 2-0 at home in late September we sat 11th satisfied with life.
In the following nine games, we’ve picked up just 5 points, with only a solitary win against Fleetwood. The winner came thanks to Cole Stockton’s 94th minute halfway line winner!
MC: Derek Adams left Morecambe in the summer to become Bradford’s manager, were you frustrated not to see him continue his successful tenure?
TC: Derek Adams will always be a legend in my eyes! He took a team destined - according to the bookies - for relegation, and led us to promotion via the playoffs with one of the lowest budgets in League 2.
He took players not wanted by other sides and created a formidable team with an effective style of play. We had the lowest possession (40%) in League Two, yet we had the highest expected goals with 77.75 (according to Wyscout) and the third most goals scored with 72.
I would have loved him to stay, but I respect his decision to see the longer term potential of Bradford City. Such is life.
MC: Former Motherwell boss Stephen Robinson was hired to replace him, what has he brought to the table and are the fans behind him?
TC: Our board have a fantastic track record of appointing the right manager at the right time. In my 26 years of following the Shrimps, we’ve appointed five managers (including Stephen) and each of them has been an appropriate appointment for that chapter.
Stephen Robinson looks a fantastic fit based on his achievements at Motherwell.
He took a club low on resources to outperform expectations - reaching two cup finals and Europe whilst also bringing in great income to the club. Working with their Head of Recruitment, Martin Foyle (recently appointed at Morecambe) they brought in a reported £6m of players sales in 3 ½ years.
In addition, he has shown an eagerness to create a pathway to the first team for our academy. In recent years, we’ve sold Leif Davis to Leeds and Jack Kingdon to Manchester United. Our academy has the ability to produce talent, but without first team integration it’s an underutilised resource.
We essentially need to be a selling club to be a sustainable League One club. ‘Robbo’ looks a perfect fit to manage that pipeline of players in and out, whilst keeping the team competitive.
We’ve been on a sticky patch lately, but I believe we can work through it. The squad had 17 new additions who are still finding their feet in an incredibly competitive division. We need a few extra players in key areas in January and I’m confident from there we’ll have enough to maintain League One status.
The vast majority of fans are well behind the manager, yet there is naturally unrest when results don’t go as planned. We are fortunate that we have a fanbase who are generally patient and loyal.
MC: Cole Stockton is the top scorer in League One with 13 goals, what are the factors behind his brilliant form?
TC: Cole was a vital player for us last season even when he wasn’t scoring. In one period, he went eight games without scoring, whilst we won seven and drew one of those.
His hold up play back to goal was so impressive and allowed us to counter attack up the field. He ended the season with six goals in eight games in the regular season and since then he hasn’t stopped.
What has changed? It’s difficult to put my finger on exactly. He seems to have found a different level of confidence in himself and a way of striking the ball which keepers can’t handle. He’s also incredibly good at rolling a defender if they’re too tight, and getting a shot off. Cole ´The Goal´ Stockton will shoot from literally anywhere, often with great accuracy.
MC: Aside from Stockton, which Morecambe players do you think will cause Sunderland problems?
TC: The reality is Cole is by far our greatest threat, but other players have shown potential.
If Jonah Ayunga plays he can be a handful for defenders. He is strong, quick and tricky with all the attributes to play at a higher level. He has just two goals to his name, but with a bit more composure I’m sure he’ll score more.
Watch out also for Leeds loanee, Alfie McCalmont who last season scored a hatful at Oldham from outside the box. He is yet to recreate that for us in a division higher, but he’s looking more confident with each game.
MC: On the other hand, what would you say are the weak spots in your team?
TC: This would most definitely be our defending from set pieces or lapses of concentration in defence. At times we look solid at the back, but at other times we lack composure and know-how to manage a situation appropriately. I have palpitations with every corner taken against us.
MC: Which eleven players can we expect Robinson to select?
TC: GK - Kyle Letheren, RB - Ryan McLaughlin, LB - Greg Leigh, RCB - Anthony O’Connor, LCB - Ryan Delaney, CM - Callum Jones, LCM - Alfie McCalmont, RCM - Shane McLoughlin, LW - Arthur Gnahoua, RW - Jonah Ayunga, CF - Cole Stockton.
MC: What style of play can Lee Johnson’s team expect to encounter?
TC: I expect us to soak up the pressure and play on the counter attack with our attacking players having the ability to dribble up the pitch.
We will press you high in certain situations, whilst at other times leave you to carry the ball in areas where we feel you won’t hurt us.
In possession, we will move the ball around on the ground - particularly with the centre backs and our full backs, Greg Leigh on the left and Ryan McLaughlin on the right will advance with the ball when the opportunities arise.
MC: Morecambe haven’t played at the Stadium of Light since 2012 in the League Cup, what is your prediction for the final score?
TC: I’m not one for predictions, but as you’ve asked I’ll go for 1-1.