TIM FLOWERS’ merry Moors continue their charge on the National League summit approaching a single-digit number of games left in the season.
Solihull fans would have pinched themselves had they been told of their current fortunes this time last season, when Moors were in the midst of completing the ‘Great Escape’ – which has since been commemorated by the club with a signed placard inside the clubhouse bar.
But the former goalkeeper, who was a key member in Blackburn Rovers’ 1994/95 Premier League winning season, is on the verge of completing another remarkable feat in his first full stint as manager.
Having been number two to Mark Yates in the dugout at the Automated Technology Group Stadium last year, he has made the almost seamless transition to manager this season to wreak havoc on the National League with the once-viewed underdogs.
It is an achievement to date that has been so remarkable, that club sponsors Sportnation.bet had Moors at 200/1 for promotion at the start of the campaign, the odds since plummeting to just 6/5 to complete the unthinkable.
Flowers admits implementing a mentality change since his promotion to manager in the summer has been a gradual process, one that has been in part to improving the quality of his squad – a key facet in upping the ambition levels at the Moors.
“I think a mentality change comes with bringing in better players.
“We went with experience, more than youth – bearing in mind that the average age of the squad is 24 – which isn’t that old.
“But we’ve gone for a spine and one or two others that have been course and distance in this division.”
Solihull have brought in a number of names over the course of the season, including the signings of Nathan Blissett and Lee Vaughan mid-way through the season.
The 52-year old believes the additions made this season, complementing the players already present at the club, can be attributed to creating the shared winning mentality and belief that now exists within the squad.
“You look at Danny Wright up top – promoted out of this league, Nathan Blissett – won it with Macclesfield, Lee Vaughan with Tranmere, Kyle Storer with Cheltenham – so we’ve got a smattering of players who have been promoted out of this division.
“Elsewhere we’ve got experience, Darren Carter, Jermaine Hylton, Adi Yussuf and Jamie Reckord have been in the Football League, and they supplement the likes of (Alex) Gudger who’s been outstanding this season – coming from National League North but has really took to this level.”
“(Liam) Daly has been around this level for a long time, (Ryan) Boot played half-a-season last season for Port Vale – in the first-half of the season he played all the games in the Football League.”
His side has been branded for adopting a more physical style of play at times, which although being paramount to attaining results on the pitch, has earned them criticism off the pitch by some.
But Flowers dispelled any negativity surrounding Moors’ approach, pointing to the majority of teams who play in a similar fashion – to varying degrees of success.
“We’re a powerful, physical side who can mix our styles up.
“A lot of people make a lot about getting to the ball up to the likes of Wright, Blissett, or Stenson, but so does everybody else in this league.
“Watch any team you want in this league, there’s a couple of teams in this league who play, but not many. Don’t try and kid on that you’re a footballing team when you’re not.”
He spoke in depth about his side’s tactics, and explained the threat that Moors pose in varying situations.
“Our DNA and the way we want to play, is to get the ball up towards the final third and play there.
“In my opinion, we’ve got the best footballer in the league in Osborne playing at the point of a three in midfield.
“So when our striker gets hold of the ball and secures it, we’ve got the likes of him and Hylton, who can offer that width and pace, (Terry) Hawkridge can play out there, Blissett plays narrower using his presence up top – and we’ve got very attacking full-backs who play outside.
“So once we’re there (in the final third), we have licence to start playing our stuff, getting it out wide and in area’s that the stats tell you that you score from.
“So if it scalps off their (a defender’s) head and they clear it, then we’ve got throws, free-kicks and corners where we’re hurting people, and we’ve got big lads who, if they make the right runs, are getting the modicum of success.
“It’s not rocket science, but it’s what most teams in our league are trying to do.”
Flowers, who is enjoying a first full-season in management after a brief spell at Stafford Rangers in 2010/11, followed by caretaker manager stints at Northampton Town and coaching roles elsewhere, admitted achieving survival for the season was a turning point in the ambitions of the club.
“Getting to 50, 52 points, you’re safe. We all looked at that and thought right ok, it’s pointless dying wondering – we might as well have a go for it now because we’re not getting relegated.
“Before a ball is kicked, we stay in this league and make sure we’re National League this season.
“Just after Christmas, we’re safe so what’s next – can we get in the play-offs?
“So that’s the aim, our aim has gone from 14th or 15th to top seven.
“Is it realistic? I’ll tell you in 11 games.”