Sunderland host Fleetwood Town at the Stadium of Light, as they look to achieve their first victory over a club they have failed to beat in six attempts. The two sides drew 1-1 earlier in the season, as Callum Connolly’s equaliser cancelled out Charlie Wyke’s header.
The Black Cats currently sit sixth in League One, whereas The Cod Army are further down in 16th, their worst position of the season. Both teams have changed their managers this season, as Fleetwood appointed former Sunderland manager Simon Grayson to replace Joey Barton in January.
Ahead of the match, I spoke to Fleetwood fan Jonny Tombs to find out how his side have been getting on under Grayson, as well as what Sunderland fans can expect from the match.
MC: Fleetwood parted ways with manager Joey Barton in early January, who now looks set to join Bristol Rovers, how did the club’s decision go down with the Cod Army?
JT: Similar to the questions concerning Barton’s original appointment, it was very mixed, but this time with a few more swaying towards the ‘are we surprised or really that bothered’ opinion. With all the fallouts and our recent poor run I think it was inevitable.
MC: Barton seemed to indicate that part of his departure was linked to a fallout with chairman Andy Pilley, linking to transfers and contracts, were fans frustrated by Pilley’s decisions or was Barton being too demanding given the financial climate?
JT: I think with everything going on Andy had every right to be cautious if this was the case, Fleetwood, as well as many other clubs, are losing too much money as a consequence of this pandemic, was it as bad as Barton made out? It sounded a little sour if you ask me.
MC: He was replaced with former Sunderland manager Simon Grayson, who endured poor spells with Bradford and Blackpool following his time on Wearside - do you think he is the right man to take the club forward?
JT: I’ll sit on the fence with this one Matty, at least for now, we always have faith in Andy Pilley’s decisions though and he’ll always do right by the club, so we’ll see how that pans out.
MC: Fleetwood are currently on a dreadful run of form in League One, winning just one of their last 12 matches, going from playoff semi-finalists to relegation form must be massively frustrating for supporters?
JT: It is and you can see the frustration coming out all over on social media. I’m a glass half full person so I try not to see too many negatives, I know we are still punching above our weight considering some of the clubs we are facing week in week out. I think we’ll be alright, we just need a little run going as we know we have a squad good enough to challenge.
MC: In January Fleetwood lost striker Ched Evans to Preston following a fallout with Joey Barton, were annoyed to lose one of your best players to a higher league over a row with staff?
JT: Yes the fanbase was very annoyed with that Matty, it was not a good sign at all as he was a great striker on his day and we do miss him. Having said that, we also heard a few rumours of Ched not wanting to be around anymore and that he thought he was bigger than the club, so if that was the case why would we keep hold?
MC: The club signed Daniel Batty (Hull), Janoi Donacien (Ipswich), and Kyle Vassell (Rotherham) in January - what sort of impact have they made so far?
JT: Batty and Donacien are absolute class, the lads ooze talent and you could see that straight away. Vassell is still finding his feet, but he has started to work a good partnership with Paddy Madden now and has got his first goal, so hopefully he cracks on.
MC: Fleetwood midfielder Callum Camps was on red hot goal-scoring form at the start of the season scoring eight in 13 matches, but he has failed to score in his last 17 matches, was he just on a purple patch?
JT: Unfortunately it seems that way, he hasn’t looked the same since he got the dreaded player of the month award in November, either that or it was my last chat with you, I’m getting a bit of a bad omen name for myself as of late, but in all seriousness, we know just how good Callum is it’s just one of those spells I hope.
MC: Who are the eleven Fleetwood players you predict Grayson will select against Sunderland and what changes has he made to your style of play?
JT: Grayson looks to have his starting 11 these days and I can’t see many changes from the Charlton fixture. At times with the new formation we can look pretty good with a bit more of an attacking threat, we are certainly getting more shots away these days, but I feel we run out of ideas and start to play the long ball later on in the game which is frustrating.
3-5-2 - Cairns (GK), Hill, Connolly, Holgate, Donacien, Duffy, Rossiter, Batty, Andrew, Madden, Vassell.
MC: Sunderland have STILL never beaten Fleetwood in six competitive meetings, do you think that run will continue today?
JT: Aahh Matty I’m not answering that one this time hahaha......... but yeah I think we’ll pinch the three points, we need to!