Key player: Callum Camps
Callum Camps has the ideal mix of having a wealth of League One experience whilst still being young enough to have the potential to go even further. Having been thrust into the Rochdale side as a youngster, Camps went on to make 240 appearances for the Spotland outfit, scoring 30 times from the centre of midfield. He also added a very handy 23 assists to his numbers during his time at the club.
Upon leaving Dale, Camps didn’t need to travel far to his new club, with Fleetwood offering him a two-year deal in the summer of 2020. And he made a flying start. Nobody in the Fleetwood side could better his 14 goal involvements (11G 3A) across the season, and he had the ability at his best to win games on his own.
Admittedly, the stats themselves may make Camps’ season look better than it really was. 10 of his 11 goals were scored by the end of November, and his numbers were helped by two braces in big wins against Bristol Rovers and, yep, Argyle. That woeful 5-1 reverse just can’t seem to escape my memory.
But even if the second half of his season didn’t match the first, Camps is undeniably talented. He offers more than just goals and assists and, still only 25, this has the potential to be a huge season for the Stockport-born player.
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Manager: Simon Grayson
Simon Grayson, a man much more palatable to write about than Fleetwood’s previous manager, has been around the block a bit. Fleetwood are his seventh club in management; well, we can make that eight if we include the one game at Kendal Town he took charge of in place of the non-league side’s regular manager, Chris Humphrey, who was self-isolating.
Probably most remembered for fairly lengthy spells at Blackpool, Leeds and Preston, but he’s been much more nomadic in recent years. He failed to make it to a year in charge at Bradford, had a much shorter second spell at Blackpool, and starred for a few months in Netflix’s own social experiment ‘Sunderland AFC’. The 51-year-old will be hoping that his time at Fleetwood brings success over a sustained period of time.
And he’s off to a good start. Since joining the ranks at Highbury in January, the Cod Army have experienced a decent run of form. There have been a few dodgy results thrown in, such as a 5-2 loss at Burton and a 2-0 home defeat to relegated Swindon, but the good has outweighed the bad to date at least.
Stopper: Alex Cairns
Few players have made more of an impression at Fleetwood in recent years than goalkeeper Alex Cairns. Having joined from Rotherham in the summer of 2016, he’s gone on to make 196 appearances during his time at Highbury, with the promise of more to come. He was injured for a significant part of the first half of last season, but is back to full fitness now and ready to make an impression again.
It actually took Cairns a little while to find his feet in the game. He began his career at Leeds, but whilst he did manage to make one appearance for the first team at Elland Road, he spent much of his time there out on loan. Non-league Stalybridge Celtic was where he made many of his appearances, but he failed to make a single first team start after signing short-term permanent contracts with Chesterfield and Rotherham. His move to Fleetwood five years ago saw his career take off sharply.
If you recognise his name, it’s probably through numerous social media clips showing unbelievable saves he’s made across numerous games. And now 28, he’s adding a certain maturity to go with his eye-catching shot stopping. He’ll start the season as number one this season, and potentially for many more to come.
Key departure: Wes Burns
Fleetwood have a lot of attacking talent in Camps alone, but the departure of Wes Burns will certainly harm them. The right winger departs Highbury having scored an impressive 28 goals for the club in his 190 appearances primarily from the right wing. In the end, an undisclosed fee from Ipswich Town was considered too good to turn down.
26-year-old Burns started his career at Bristol City, with various loan spells (including one at Fleetwood) defining his time at Ashton Gate. Nonetheless, he still managed to make 54 appearances for the Robins before joining Fleetwood on a permanent deal in 2017. Indeed, his success there has seen him secure a move not necessarily up the Football League ladder, but to a much bigger club nonetheless.
Fleetwood have the talent to replace the creativity Burns provided. Whether they’re able to actually do so remains to be seen.
Target: Top half
Fleetwood escaped their Joey Barton era relatively unscathed (well, at least compared to Bristol Rovers), and are off to a relatively solid start under Grayson. With that in mind, they’ll have every reason to be casting their eyes to the business end of League One, rather than worrying too much about relegation.
However, one wonders whether they have the consistency to mount a real challenge for the top positions. Even when they’re in form, there’s a nagging doubt that a bad result isn’t too far around the corner. And, having never played higher than the third tier, a lack of experience may show during the latter stages of the season, even if Grayson’s appointment may negate that somewhat.
With Burns’ departure providing a challenge, a place in the top half may be the most realistic target for Fleetwood to aim for this season.
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