A Year With Solihull Moors
It's as good-a-time as any to confess that before this season I had limited interest in Solihull Moors. In fact, even though the club had won the league the year I was never entirely impressed with the team, the style and largely found myself only able to commend the fact that the side were so ruthless when it came to killing off games - Gainsborough Trinity at home a fine case in point.
My major interest in the Conference North came from following my cousin, Ellis Deeney. He spent a fair amount of time playing for Worcester City and ultimately I found myself visiting Moors once a season to watch him play while occasionally also coming along to witness Birmingham City's U23's in the regular pre-season friendly.
Yet the promotion campaign proved to be a remarkable one and inevitably, through boredom on the Saturday's when my boyhood Birmingham City were not in action along with the invite from the co-editor of this website, Joel Cassidy, I slowly began to head to the Automated Technology Group Stadium more and more, begrudingly accepting that the Moors were to become champions.
A fan though? No.
The opening game of the season at Sutton United fell in line with Birmingham City's first game and being sat inside one of the boxes in the main stand at St.Andrews I was able to keep a track of the score. Moors were ahead and I vividly remember saying something along the lines of 'fair play but it won't last, they lack the quality and will eventually be relegated'.
It wasn't until September that I actually made the trip to the ground commonly known as Damson Park and I was left eating my words. Boreham Wood were the opposition and I was excited to see the club I had read so much about following their own crazy survival story. With names such as Devera, Ilesanmi, Kuhl and Balanta known due to my general love of football I was intrigued to watch them as much as the hosts yet I was taken aback by the quality on the pitch, Jamey Osborne in particular took my fancy.
From that moment my story with the Moors almost wrote itself. A conversation with Joel led him to create the website and by the time the Moors played Maidstone United we were reporting on the game.
I'm no believer in perfection but the timing was about as perfect as it could have been. Moors beat Maidstone United to record an away victory before the club's first ever televised fixture and what a night that proved to be - Akwasi Asante's hat-trick helping Bignot's team to a 4-0 victory over fellow part-time outfit Southport. Wonderful stuff.
October and November were a crazy couple of months. Moors made their way into the First Round of the FA Cup, played a side as big as Tranmere Rovers at home in the league, Marcus Bignot departed after an unparalleled draw at Yeovil Town's Huish Park and was replaced by Liam McDonald who finished the job in the replay. That was the night I first used 'we' to describe Solihull Moors, walking away in delight after Sterling-James scored the winning penalty.
December was similarly hectic with the Luton Town fixture proceeding a month that saw the beginning of a major player overhaul and even the introduction of some youth talents in the Birmingham Senior Cup.
The second half of the season saw the Moors play a regular part of my week, writing up the previews and reports while talking loudly and proudly about the performance of a group brought together by a delightfully intelligent young manager. Players signed from the second, third, fourth and even fifth tiers of non-league football were stepping into its top flight with confidence. Claps soon became cheers or fist pumps, arguing with refereeing decisions and ignoring results elsewhere to concentrate solely on the fixture in front of me. I was very much a Solihull Moors man.
And just when it came to the point of the season when everything appeared to be going wrong the words of Liam McDonald in his weekly piece for the Solihull Moors website helped us believe that we would survive. The result against Tranmere Rovers was difficult to take and yet the feeling was 'alright, that was awful but we'll win next week'.
We lost against York City and yet there was still a feel-good factor about the place, something that only comes when a team is confident in their ability and willing to put their bodies on the line for one another in a bid to achieve their goal. Though my writing may have expressed my honest hurt at performances and our league position but it was impossible not to feel positive about our survival chances.
Seven and a half months after being sat at St.Andrews having a little pop at the Moors the turnaround was complete. As I witnessed Lloyd Dyer and Lucas Akins put an insipid Blues to the sword I was keeping tabs on the score at Moss Rose spending the final ten minutes of the game with a broad smile on my face delighted as Carline, Byrne and Charles-Cook ensured victory. The strange looks from others were immediately justified with cries of 'Moors have scored, Moors are staying up!'
Confirmation of our National League status was met with overriding relief but it was well deserved and being a part of the victory over Eastleigh was a fantastic feeling. The previous couple of months had been a real test yet the fans stuck by the team and McDonald has eluded to what a huge effect it had on the players who stepped up and dominated an experienced outfit in Eastleigh. It was glorious.
With the season closing myself and Joel would like to express our thanks to those who have supported the growth of Vital Solihull Moors.
Thank you to those that liaised with Joel about the initial set-up of the website providing the 'do's' and 'don'ts'.
To the fans that have liked, shared and interacted with us via social media. We welcome all opinions and will always try to get the supporters' point of view across.
To the players who have similarly responded positively on social media and also completed interviews with Joel. A special thanks in particular to Shepherd Murombedzi and Jordan Gough who helped set the tone for the site moving forward.
And finally a thank you to everybody who has helped Vital Solihull Moors become a part of a wonderfully tight-knit community set-up. It has been a pleasure.
I'm not sure why I couldn't take to the Moors to begin with. Maybe being a council estate boy and Birmingham City supporter I long for the underdog to be victorious. My naivety was incredible. If I have learned one thing this year it is that Solihull Moors epitomise being the underdog and revelled in it. I've loved every minute being a part of their story. Sorry, our story.
Bring on the 2017/18 National League campaign!