SOLIHULL Moors are encouraging young fans to lace up their boots and go toe-to-toe with their non-League heroes, writes Bradley Rice.
Moors have set up a social media initiative – Stay at Home Skill School – which encourages youngsters to challenge their idols from the safety of their back garden.
Players upload videos of themselves honing their skills before calling on fans to step into their shoes and replicate the skill shown.
Defender Alex Gudger believes now more than ever is a time when embracing the community is pivotal as people continue to deal with lockdown measures.
“It’s about contributing to the community at this difficult time. In normal day to day life, Moors are forever looking to help,” he said.
“Stay at Home Skill School is predominantly aimed at kids and fans at home. I’ve seen a few of our lads getting involved – Danny Wright, Kyle Storer – and there’s been lots of replies from our younger supporters.
“It’s great, it keeps kids active. It gives them something to do out in the garden, keeps them occupied.”
Gudger, who signed from Brackley Town at the start of last season, says Moors are in a league of their own when it comes to lending a hand to the local area.
“The community at the club is huge,” he said. The players are all prepared to do their bit as much as they can. Lads are often popping their heads into primary schools, local hospitals.
“I’ve never been to a club where helping the community is on such a big scale. There’s a rota to make sure everybody plays their part.
“Getting involved with schools is really important as it creates a pathway for kids who look up to footballers. It shows us doing things in the right way.”
It is not just maintaining morale in the wider community that is critical at this time, as Gudger also highlights the importance of ensuring togetherness within the squad.
The 26-year-old reveale assistant manager Richard Beale has been keeping the team on their toes by springing challenges on the lads.
“The group chats are constantly going off and the coach is setting us targets,” he said.
“The other week he put us all in groups. Each member of the group had to do a 3km run, post their timings to the chat and then an average was worked out.
“The group that ran the slowest had to do a forfeit. They all had to post a video of themselves singing. Little things like that are massive as it all contributes to keeping morale high. We don’t know if the season will resume, but we have to think it will.”
Due to a knee injury sustained in Moors’ goalless draw at AFC Fylde in March, Gudger is unable to participate fully in the group’s activities, but the centre-half has not taken it as an opportunity to relax – much the opposite.
He believes staying active is crucial for both mind and body during this period of uncertainty.
“I’m still doing my bit,” he said. “It’s a little bit frustrating with the injury as I like to go for a run and I am restricted in that respect but I do hit sessions at a certain time every day, I make sure I keep to that. A little bit of structure is key. Making sure you don’t lose that normality.
“You don’t want to find yourself sitting on the sofa, getting up late, not setting your alarm. It’s about setting yourself little targets. It puts you in a good frame of mind.
“Everyone needs to have the right mindset. Mental health is a big factor in times like these. Once changes are made to people’s everyday routine, people don’t like it, but you have to make sure you are headstrong. Footballers need to be ticking over and exercising, making the best of a difficult time.”
In addressing the current situation, Gudger understands giving up work is tough, especially given the strain it puts on finances, but the defender urges people to stay at home.
“It’s hard for everybody and it’s not ideal. There are a lot of grey areas about what people can and can’t do,” he said.
“There’s a lot of confusion. That’s enough to trigger people to get a little bit frustrated and you start seeing people going to work for jobs that are not essential, but they have to pay the bills so I can understand it.
“I do think we have to stay in. The quicker we stay away, the quicker we get back to normal. People need to be aware of that.”