Matthew Crichton: Despite winning the league title, South Shields and Kevin Phillips opted to part ways at the end of last season - were you surprised by this?
Charlo: No, not at all - it was the world’s worst-kept secret.
The fanbase were never really 100% behind him and some quarters saw him as a bit of a publicity stunt to raise the gate.
He got visibly rattled too easily with negativity from the touchlines for my liking, which came out poorly in his post-match interviews - you need to take the rough with the smooth but good luck to him moving on he did a job for us and we’re grateful.
MC: The man who replaced him is another Sunderland legend in Julio Arca, how did his appointment go down with supporters?
C: You know what the jungle drums can be like, chatter of two managers in a row with no managerial experience of the level we are at, some people were understandably a bit apprehensive at first - club legend or not.
But bolstered with the assistance of Tommy Miller who has good experience and knowledge of this level, a combination of the two will be a good blend for success.
MC: South Shields will be coming up against the likes of Darlington, Spennymoor, Scunthorpe and Blyth Spartans this season - what are your expectations?
C: Expectations and reality are sometimes a world apart, it’s a funny old game.
I foresee a comfortable top-half finish though, maybe top 6 and a push for playoffs, I’d be happy with a first season of consolidation in NLN to be fair, anything else is a bonus for me.
MC: Sunderland youngster Harry Gardiner joined Shields on loan last season, how did he get on?
C: I didn’t get to see him much on his return to 1CA due to work commitments, I think he was only there for the last half a dozen games or so?
I don’t think he got many opportunities to make a lasting impact before his return to his parent club, but he fully deserved his pro contract with them after seeing what he could do in our Academy side, he’s got a bright future ahead, that’s certain. Props to Yushu Group / David Lynch.
MC: Shields captain Blair Adams featured in several Sunderland squads before a successful EFL career, what impact has he made since joining his local club?
C: Not just a baller, but a coach and a sports journalism graduate to boot.
Blair’s been as solid as a rock since signing, he’s a huge asset. Did you know he scored a hat-trick on his birthday in the FA Cup? He never speaks about it, very modest chap.
He may have dropped a few leagues to sign for us, but it re-ignited his passion for the game, which is great for him on a personal level as well as for us.
MC: Another ex-Sunderland academy player is Martin Smith, who also has pro experience, how crucial was he to your promotion last season?
C: Martin wears his heart on his sleeve, he’s very passionate and always gives 110%.
He’s got a great presence on the pitch, physically and vocally. Not many people realise he’s spent time in the Scottish Premier with Kilmarnock and Swindon Town, a true professional in all terms of the word.
MC: Who have Shields brought in so far to strengthen your squad this summer?
C: Paul Blackett - Spennymoor - Expecting plenty of goals from this lad, the proverbial fox in a box. He’s going to rattle a few defences for sure, I’m excited to watch Paul ply his trade and push us up the table.
John Lufudu - Spennymoor - He would give Usain Bolt a run for his money, he’s like a whippet! I think we’ve got a DR Congo flag already, he’ll be a crowd favourite is my prediction. Obviously, a Tommy Miller acquisition, so he must rate him highly. That’s good enough for me.
Luke James - York City - He’s played the majority of his career in the Football League. He has also been capped by the England C team. Happy with those facts alone, I’ve not done my homework on him yet but I’m sure he’ll do great.
3 Academy graduates - James McGeorge (Mid), Callum Dobson (Keeper), Kyle Seymour (Keeper). Don’t know much about the shot-stoppers, but McGeorge is definitely a name to remember - keep an eye on this lad!
MC: Aside from the above-mentioned players, who do you think can cause Sunderland problems?
C: Lufudu’s mazy runs and Brigg’s confident long-range efforts. Hoping Blackett will get on the scoresheet with top bins.
Sunderland’s been on the ascendency under Mowbray, so it’s going to be a good test of fitness and ability, and a great marker to measure ourselves against.
MC: Lastly, for a bit of fun, what is your prediction for the final score?
C: South Shields 1-2 Sunderland.
We’ll take the lead just before half-time to get the crowd buzzing, but get pipped at the post in the last 10 minutes after a stalemate 2nd half.
Lump on it, lads - Paul Blackett first goalscorer on 41 minutes!