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The Cole Stockton Problem

Updated: Jul 12, 2022

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Before his permanent move from Tranmere Rovers to Morecambe in 2019, Stockton had experienced two relatively successful loan spells at the Mazuma Stadium. The scouse born striker bagged a steady 11 goals in 33 games in all competitions of his loan spells at Morecambe spanning over 12 months. His rate wasn’t too impressive for then manager Jim Bentley to warrant forking out money from the limited transfer chest straight away. However, just over 2 years later, the seaside club snapped up the 25-year-old on a free transfer. Despite his slow start to the club, Cole’s main attribute, his work rate, meant he kept plugging away at a starting spot in the Morecambe side.

Jim Bentley’s departure to AFC Fylde in October 2019 meant that the forward would be revitalised when new manager, Derek Adams, took to the helm. In Derek Adams’ first full season, the team won promotion to League One, the highest point in the club's history to date. Cole Stockton was vital to this success and his trailblazing form continued throughout the following campaign, where he topped the league in terms of goal contributions and was third in goals scored. Stockton’s form in the 2021/22 season is seen as even more impressive when you consider the manager changes. Stephen Robinson came in following Adams’ departure to Bradford in the summer. Robinson, dubbed Robbo by the Shrimps faithful, played a different system to Adams. The Northern Irishman focused on careful build-up play and keeping possession to frustrate the opposition. This was in stark contrast to what Adams believed. In an interview following the second leg of the playoff semi-final in 2021, Derek claimed that “football isn’t about possession, it’s about creating chances,” which highlights the Scotsman’s approach to tactical play. Even though the manager turnover wasn’t easy on players, Stockton continued to score at an unbelievable rate with some of the most spectacular and outrageous strikes you are ever likely to see on a football pitch. Some notable goals include: a half volley against Solihull Moors in the FA Cup, a half volley lobbing the keeper from 50 yards out against Wimbledon and a 90th minute half-way line shot that lobbed the keeper and won Morecambe the game against rivals Fleetwood Town.

With his success being so clear and his stock steadily rising, it’s hard to imagine that the Shrimps have any problem regarding his situation at all. However, the striker’s form and ability has created a situation that Derek Adams will have to figure out even if Cole stays at the club this summer. Given that Stockton is going into the final year of his contract, clubs will be looking to snap up the 28-year-old on a free next summer, should he remain at the Mazuma Stadium. This could mean the club would lose out on selling the forward for a fee that could greatly help their finances. Should they cash in on Cole whilst his price is high, Morecambe would struggle to find many players within their price range with the adequate ability and work rate to fill Stockton’s boots. Therefore, the club are stuck in situation where they must decide between financial safety or taking a punt on Cole helping Morecambe stay up for a second season in a row.

The conundrum does have a few solutions that could work out both in the short term and the long term. The first of which is to offer the Scouser a new contract. His performances have more than warranted a new deal that would pay more than the reported £2,400/week he is currently on. This may tie him down for another 2-3 years but would likely have devastating financial consequences if the club does not stay in Sky Bet League One again. This is the problem the club face for many players as it does not have the budget or income to operate sustainably within this level of English football and certainly overachieving in its current stature. The potentially good news is that back in May, Derek Adams claimed the club was working on making Cole Stockton “the club’s highest paid player” in an interview with the Lancaster Guardian. Should Cole continue his form following a contract extension, then the club could benefit from an even higher transfer fee for the player. Clubs are already circling, and it is reported that Rotherham United, Bolton Wanderers and Preston North End (among many others) are interested.

Another potential solution has arisen only within the past week. Morecambe have been linked with Stockport County’s Scott Quigley. The forward had impressed fans in the past in games against the Shrimps and has clearly left an impact on Derek Adams, if he is to make the move. At 29-years-old, Quigley is seen as a remarkably similar player to Stockton, both of whom possess unique finishing ability and being the focal point of an incisive and lethal attack. These comparisons can only be good news should he replace Cole in the remaining few weeks of the transfer window.

Even though Cole ‘the Goal’ Stockton lit up League One last season, there has been no update of his future from either himself or the club ever since Adams spoke of a potential contract back in May. This news may concern Shrimps fans, however, the potential of him leaving this summer or even in the future is not as bleak as it may seem at first. The biggest factor of this is the philosophy that manager Derek Adams keeps with him is the belief that the system and the team are bigger than the individuals. It is this firm statement of team commitment that proves Morecambe will put up a strong and brave fight to survive in the 2022/23 season, no matter who is leading the line.

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