MOORS midfielder Jamey Osborne says that his teammates are feeling fit and ready, ahead of the National League kick-off against Harrogate Town on Saturday.
Osborne, Solihull Moors’ creative enigma in the heart of midfield during their unexpected title challenge last season, returns fresh from a pre-season campaign in which the club went unbeaten – notably holding League One opposition in Burton Albion and Oxford United to credible draws.
He now has the challenge of lifting Solihull to those same lofty heights again – but with the added pressure of seeing out promotion – after falling in the play-off semi-final to AFC Fylde last term.
The midfielder believes that this will be the toughest season yet to gain promotion, but views it as a division that is anyone’s for the taking.
“There’s a lot of good players in this league and a lot of teams who are thinking ‘Why can’t we do what Solihull did last season?'” he said.
“There’s no massive teams who I think can run away with the league, but there are 10 or 11 teams who will think they can win it this season.
“It’s going to be tough, a lot of people will say Notts County because they’re a massive club, but it’s not as easy as that.
“Tranmere took three years to get out of this league, so it’s not as easy as being the biggest club in the league, it’s about getting performances and the results.
“We all want to be on the same page and get promoted.”
It has been a rollercoaster second spell at the Moors for Osborne, who returned to the club on an initial loan in 2017 before signing permanently from League Two side Grimsby Town, experiencing the stresses and jubilation of surviving relegation in 2017/18, before leading the club to their best-ever league finish.
He admits that he has no regrets about his decision to swap the Football League for the National League, and believes the Moors can outdo their heroics from last season.
“When I came back here just over 18 months ago, the club was 13 points in the relegation zone, and a lot of people questioned the move from League Two – but that was the challenge I wanted,” said Osborne.
“Sometimes you have to start again, or go to somewhere where you enjoy your football, any my choice was to come back here.
“It was nice to get into the Nation League Team of the Year, but it’s about doing that again and the whole team performance, either going one step better and winning the league or going up through the play-offs – but we don’t want that stress again.”
One particular fan of the creative midfielder is his manager, Tim Flowers, who has often lauded the player as the best player in the division, praise which Osborne says he has taken in his stride to ensure positive results on the pitch.
“It’s great that you can get that kind of compliment from your manager, because not many managers can give players that kind of title,” he said.
“But it’s still up to me to do my bit on the pitch and to prove to everyone else why Tim Flowers thinks that.
“It’s not easy, it’s about consistency in this league and I think if you can get a run of performances together, there’s no reason why you can’t be up there – so having a lot of backing from the management is always going to help.”
The 27-year-old admits that the pre-season preparations this year have put him in good stead to hit the ground running when the first whistle sounds at Harrogate’s Wetherby Road, and is confident that his teammates can follow suit.
“We were in an extra day this pre-season, we’ve had the weather which was tough, and we’ve had some good fixtures that were better than last season.
“But it gets harder every year, and I think this is probably the best pre-season and the toughest that I’ve had for a number of years so hopefully everyone else feels the same and is fit and ready – hopefully it all pays off come Saturday.”