Matthew Crichton: After losing the first three games of the season, Fleetwood have scored eight in three unbeaten matches. How do you feel about the club’s start to the season?
Ben Knapman: It was always going to be a hard start to the season, Pompey at home followed by Lincoln and Sheffield Wednesday away. You can’t get tougher than that.
Since then we had a little break, we rejuvenated and we now have got the points on the board. Momentum has built – we’ve scored goals and been good on the eye.
MC: In previous years it has always been about Joey Barton, but now Fleetwood have an experienced manager in ex-Sunderland gaffer Simon Grayson. How has he performed so far and are you confident that he is the man to take the club forward?
BK: Simon has done very well so far. He’s steadied the ship in different and difficult circumstances and has worked under a budget a lot lower then Joey Barton ever did. He’s brought youth through and worked with what he’s got and not moaned. I’m interested to see where we go with him.
MC: Having previously been consistent playoff contenders, Fleetwood appear to have sold many of their top players and reduced the wage bill. Is it fair to say that the pandemic hit the club hard financially?
BK: Yes, but also I think it’s helped us realise we were not playing the game correctly by giving players a last pay day.
Now we want to provide our own players and get value for money to help the club become self sustainable. The likes of Shayden Morris, Jay Matate, James Hill, and Ged Garner are all products of our U23s and our academy.
MC: The club signed just under ten new first-team players in the summer. Which of your new signings have impressed you the most and why?
BK: Tom Clarke is an old head who still has a lot to give, and he has been excellent in a back three. Callum Morton has scored goals and looked great in the last three games, plus you have a few others in Ryan Edmundson who haven’t had the breaks just yet.
MC: Aside from the above-mentioned new signings, which Fleetwood players do you think Sunderland will have to be wary of?
BK: Callum Camps. He is a goal-scoring midfielder with two goals and two assists so far this season. He has scored goals throughout his career but he’s looking sharp and back to his best in the last two games.
MC: Joey Barton has taken four Fleetwood players with him to Bristol Rovers this summer, including Glenn Whelen. Were you disappointed to lose any of those players?
BK: I was disappointed to lose Sam Finley. He is a good player at a good age with a great eye for goal who was always a figher. Having said that, we have similar players to him, so I am not entirely gutted. With Coutts, Whelen and Saunders, I wish them the best, but we have better players at the club now.
MC: Who are the 11 players you predict Simon Grayson will select against Sunderland?
BK: 3-5-2. Cairns (GK), Johnson, Hill, Clarke, Holgate, Andrew, Rossitor, Biggins, Camps, Morton, Garner.
MC: What style of play can Lee Johnson’s men expect to encounter against Fleetwood?
BK: A solid, hard to beat, rigid Fleetwood side. Sunderland will get chances against us, as we do concede quite a few with this formation, but going forward we do create chances.
You’ve read what our Fleetwood supporter Knappers thinks about today’s game – if you’ve not caught our preview pod this week, tune in to hear Fleetwood chairman Andy Pilley’s thoughts ahead of the clash.
Also, don’t miss the rest of our Fleetwood v Sunderland pre-match coverage: