The Opposition View: Fleetwood

It’s the final Tuesday night home game of the season and fellow promotion hopefuls Fleetwood are in town. They may be one of the smallest clubs in the division, but there’s a real hunger for success. Martin Crane fills us in on the Cod Army 👇

Back in the summer, you were tipped by some as dark horses for promotion. What have you made of your season so far and where do you think you’ll finish? Without doubt, our season can be summed up by one word: inconsistent. We’ve seen some brilliant performances, and some big wins, but we’ve also seen some uninspiring dross, and it’s anyone’s guess which Fleetwood will turn up from one game to the next. We obviously have a young, and controversial, manager and he will always polarise opinions. Our fan base is split on Joey and I have to say from the outset that I am not a fan.

Like last year, our season has been marred by rumours of fallouts behind the scenes and big names being frozen out and leaving the club. January saw our former vice captain and 2018 fans’ player of the year, Ash Eastham, sold to Salford – to the astonishment of almost all of our fans. We should remember where we are, though, and for a club the size of ours to be looking at promotion at all is an achievement. I don’t think the season has gone quite as well as we’d hoped, but going into Tuesday night’s game we are just three points off the play-offs – after a period of really poor form through January – so if we can put together a bit of a run then who knows?!

Who have been your standout players so far and why? I think in Paddy Madden (the joint second top scorer in League One) and Ched Evans, we have one of the best attacking line-ups in the league. For me, Paddy is our best player and when he’s on the pitch you’ve always got that goal threat. It’s no coincidence that our poor run coincided with his dip in form. He has 18 goals so far in all competitions this season and I genuinely wouldn’t swap him for any other player in this league. Ched has been there and done it all and his issues are well documented. Whatever your thoughts, though, he is a top player in League One and even on a bad day always looks likely to score when the ball drops to him. Kyle Dempsey has been exceptional in midfield too, although he is out injured at the moment – but Glenn Whelan joined in January and, despite some scepticism from fans, he’s looked the real deal so far.

Republic of Ireland international Whelan joined after leaving Scottish Premiership Hearts

From the outside, you seem like a very well run club. I know there’s decent financial backing there, but how important do you think it is to remain a small club with a close-knit fan community? Personally, that’s something I’d like to see Wycombe maintain! We will always be that club, purely because of our location. We get stick all the time – particularly on social media – for attendances, but we are a town of 27,000 people. Add into that we have no surrounding support – we are on a peninsula, so there is water on three sides and Blackpool on the other. Our fan base is what it is. The chairman would love to grow that, but he’s limited by geography. As you say, though, that does tend to create a close-knit, albeit small, fan base – but the club are a massive presence in the local community.

Is the longer term plan to reach the Championship and do you think you can? I think it’s fair to say you’re a steady League One outfit now. Without doubt, that is the plan, and I see no reason why not. As you say, we’re an established, top half League One team now, and we have the infrastructure and backing to get to the Championship. I look at similar-sized clubs like Burton and Yeovil who have succeeded and been there, and there’s no reason why we can’t get there too. I think we have to acknowledge that realistically, if we ever did, we’d be fighting relegation, but then who knows? We’ve had some great results against big clubs in this division, beating the likes of Sheffield United and Sunderland, and our academy is starting to produce some really talented youngsters too, so the future is bright.

Last of all, how do you see this game going? Feel free to give us a score prediction! As I said earlier, ‘inconsistency’ is our buzz word. We went through a period of winning one game in 13 but come into this game off the back of consecutive wins. If we perform to our best, we can beat anyone in this league, but we’re just as likely to be turned over. We have a horrible run of fixtures coming up now, though, so the management will be wanting points on the board ASAP. I’ve been impressed with Wycombe this term, but you seem to have hit your own run of inconsistent form, so I’m going to sit on the fence and predict a 1-1 draw.

Header image by Dan Clark
Glenn Whelan photo: Tomasz Przechlewski via Wikimedia Commons. Used under license.
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