With the season less than 24 hours away, I write this while sat on my bed wondering where on Earth Solihull Moors sit in the National League pyramid.
On the one hand, we come into the season on the back of an unbelievable upturn in form and a positive pre-season in which everybody is saying the right things. Tim Flowers has taken over from Yates, leaders are aplenty and there are more fans interested in the club than ever before which can only be good for the community spirit built.
On the other hand, Mark Yates was the man in charge when our form turned for the better and our dismal 3-0 home defeat to Kidderminster Harriers in the pouring rain put a dampener on the summer. We’ve also struggled in the transfer market with the squad short on depth despite a very strong starting XI on paper.
Let’s be positive first. After all, Tim Flowers has the majority of the starting XI that earned draws against Macclesfield Town, AFC Fylde Wrexham, Boreham Wood and Aldershot Town and beat Dover Athletic and Bromley.
That starting XI is arguably one of the finest in the division. In Kyle Storer and Liam Daly, Tim Flowers has men that lead by example both through voice and performance while Darren Carter completes a trio of players that can lead the club on and off the pitch.
Tyrone Williams and Jamie Reckord were exceptional at full-back while Jamey Osborne is one of the most naturally talented footballers in the National League. In attack we possess the aerial threat of Kwame Thomas, the power of Adi Yussuf and the deft touch and pace of Jermaine Hylton, all three supremely hard workers that set the tempo from the front.
And George Carline is still at the club, a player who will no doubt harbour ambitions of becoming a regular member of the starting XI once again but whose versatility and work ethic has seen him become a key member of the Solihull Moors squad.
Joining them are six new faces. Ryan Boot has taken the number one jersey vacated by Max O’Leary on the back of playing 22 games for League Two Port Vale last term. Alex Gudger was named Player of the Season at Brackley Town and the FA Trophy winner will start the season as Liam Daly’s central defensive partner.
Luke Maxwell boosts the midfield, the left-footed Birmingham City youngster joining on loan until January to add real power, presence and tenacity to the Moors engine room. And up front, 33-year-old Danny Wright will provide a physical presence but hopefully a return not too dissimilar to the 22 he netted as Cheltenham Town returned to the Football League.
More recently, 22-year-old Jordan Murphy and 20-year-old Dan Sweeney have joined the party, the former an ex-Walsall youngster who was with Telford United last season and the latter a powerful wide man. To begin with, they will help boost the squad numbers but with a bit of confidence, they have the pace and technical ability to potentially cause competition for those ahead of him.
Three more players have been given squad numbers ahead of the new season. Former goalkeeper Nathan Vaughan returns at 37 years of age as goalkeeping coach but also as back-up to Ryan Boot. His personality in and around the dressing room will be a key factor for team morale. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, Dylan Barkers and Callum Coyle have received squad numbers after breaking through the academy, the latter making his first start on the final day of last season.
The squad is small and a couple of further additions will be required throughout the season if we are to turn last season’s final 20 matches into a 46-game season. Survival is naturally the main aim for a club the size of ours but ambitions of a play-off push remain.
Then there is Tim Flowers who at 51 has conducted his first full pre-season in management after short-lived spells with Stafford Rangers and Kidderminster Harriers. The ex-England and Premier League winning goalkeeper has been around the block since retiring, assisting Iain Dowie at Coventry City, Queens Park Rangers and Hull City while taking on a goalkeeping coach role at Leicester City, Manchester City, Northampton Town and Nottingham Forest.
He was pivotal on the training pitch under Mark Yates last season and the hope that he can translate at the main man at the helm. His inexperience as a manager is a concern but his career and role last season mean everybody is behind him as the season kicks off.
Gary Whild is his assistant manager and with Nathan Vaughan also on the coaching staff, there is a recognisable trio in command of the team giving Solihull Moors supporters plenty to shout about.
Nobody expects much from little Solihull Moors. We’re the tiny club from the Midlands and favourites for the drop with the bookies. Yet you can underestimate us at your peril. There is real National League quality in the ranks with many capable of commanding a position in a higher division. Our starting XI will be the envy of several managers and hopefully we can recover the consistency that allowed us to survival from an improbable position last term.
It’s August 4th. Silverlake Stadium. Come on you Moors!