VITAL INTERVIEW - Tom Tonks
JC: Obviously you're one of the newer members of the Solihull Moors squad, so tell us little bit about your footballing background prior to joining the Moors.
TT: 'It's been a case of starting at the bottom of non-league really. I've played on some park pitches of the lower West Midland leagues and have progressed on to playing at the likes of Stockport County and, hopefully this season, the likes of Leyton Orient and Tranmere Rovers.
'My senior football career started at a Staffordshire based team called Brocton FC, then I moved to Tipton Town. Things started to get a little more serious when I joined Halesowen Town, where we managed to win promotion to the Northern Premier Division. After staying there for two-and-a-half seasons, I moved down the road to Stourbridge where things went from strength to strength. I had a four-month spell at AFC Telford United part way through my first season, before I moved back to Stourbridge. There were FA Cup runs in both the seasons I played at Stourbridge and we just missed out on promotion through the play-offs in my second season there. Having the opportunity to captain the side there, that is something I will never forget.'
JC: For the fans who have yet to see you play, what kind of player are you? And what attributes do you think Moors fans will appreciate the most?
TT: 'What can they expect? I'm kind of a modest person, but what you will get is 100% whenever the gaffer calls up on me. I'll 'press and rat' as some managers call it and be horrible to play against. I like to chip in with the odd goal here and there, get on dead balls and hopefully deliver some quality for the big lads to get on the end off.
'Oh, and hopefully they'll appreciate the long throw!'
JC: What attracted you to the Moors in the first place? And what has impressed you about the club since joining?
TT: 'For me, Solihull is one of the biggest clubs in the local area and when the gaffer (Liam McDonald) asked me if I was interested, it was a no-brainer. To play at this level of football is a first for me, but to say it was an easy decision would be difficult because I can't speak highly enough of Stourbridge. There was no way I could turn Solihull down with the level the club plays at.
'Everything about the club so far has been brilliant and I'm still yet to pick a fault with anything. The longer that continues the better!'
JC: A lot has been made of the fact you are the fourth player to make the move from Stourbridge to Solihull Moors in recent months, did any of the other former Glassboys help convince you that a move to the Moors was a good one? Has it been made easier to settle into the club having some familiar faces around the place?
TT: 'There has been a little bit made of it, but I've put that to the back of my mind really. It's all done now, it's settled and we are Solihull players. With Kristian Green being my best mate outside of football, it has helped a little. Also knowing the likes of Joel Kettle, Luke Benbow, Chris Lait and coming across some of the other lads before, it wasn't really a difficult place to settle in to. All the lads have been top draw and it's just a good place to be playing football, which is what we are all passionate about.'
JC: You had some great moments at Stourbridge, including a fantastic FA Cup run and a play-off final last season. Do you think those experiences can help you make the step up to National League football?
TT: '100%. Every time you step out onto the pitch it's a new experience, but during my time at Stourbridge, we played against clubs at this level, the likes of Dover and Eastleigh and I have never really felt out of my depth at any point. I'm just looking forward to the challenge ahead because it is a step up for me personally, and one that I will come out with plenty of positives and hopefully many appearances.'
JC: Do you think having such a positive season with Stourbridge last campaign will help you bring a winning mentality to the Moors?
TT: 'I've always had a positive mind-set, because if you don't, you are losing half the battle already. Coming off the back of such a positive season can only be a plus point. There are the other lads from Stourbridge as well. Jack Edwards is another one who had a great season (with Leamington), Darren Carter also did with Forest Green. There are lots of players that have an upbeat mentality going into August 5th. We've got that feeling in training and also in the games we have played during pre-season.'
JC: Having never played at this level of football before, what are your expectations of National League football? How much are you looking forward to the opportunity at playing at this level?
TT: 'I'm expecting it to be very tough, as there are some big clubs who play on a full-time basis. Every game is going to be a difficult one. I'm imagining it to be very physical and sharp and that's something I can't wait to test myself against, because it is a step up in class for me. I'm never one to back down from a tough challenge and we have enough in the dressing room to pull each other through every game.'
JC: What have you made of manager Liam McDonald so far? How does he compare to managers you have played under previously?
TT: 'The gaffer has been great so far, everyone has different views on the managers, but like all those that I have played under, I don't have anything bad to say (about Liam McDonald). Being a younger manager, the gaffer has still got a bit about him and likes to get involved during training sometimes. But in all seriousness, he knows exactly what he wants and I think with the players he has chosen he will get exactly that. Hopefully we can carry what he wants onto the pitch and if we do, I think we will have a very good season.'
JC: What has your assessment been of the pre-season campaign? And how positive do you think the preparations have been ahead of the new season?
TT: 'It's been good, apart from the Tamworth game where we didn't perform, although we didn't lose. For the standards we have set, the gaffer, staff and players have all been reasonably happy, but there is always room for improvement. We felt every week there were more positives than negatives and now we are all just raring to go on the 5th of August. Getting the winning feeling into everyone's heads during pre-season has been key and it becomes a nice mentality to have going into the season.'
JC: What do you make of the squad ahead of the new season?
TT: 'Over the last five or six weeks that we have all been together, everyone has worked hard and the gaffer has got real quality in all areas of the pitch. We have the likes of Jamma (Jermaine Hylton) and Carts (Darren Carter), and their CV's speak for themselves really. There are a few players that are a few weeks behind that will add more to the squad and it's a nice headache for the gaffer to have to know that the quality is there for him to choose from. It's now up to us to perform on the pitch.'
JC: How well do you think the Moors can do this season? What can be achieved?
TT: 'I don't want to give too much away from what's being said in the dressing room, but from what's being said (in the dressing room) and what 'the bookies' think, we are miles apart. We know on our day we can beat anyone and that's no lie. We have players to score goals and players that will do the horrible side of the game.'
JC: Do you have any personal goals ahead the new campaign? Any personal targets?
TT: 'Obviously it is my first season at this level, but I still have the same targets as any season. Play as many games as possible, score as many goals as possible and create as many chances for the lads around me. More importantly for me the team has to be winning and then everyone is in a positive place and that can only be a good thing.'
JC: Chester at home awaits on the opening day, can we get off to the best possible start against the Blues?
TT: 'YES 100%!! There would be no better way to start a season than to get three points on the board at home in front of the Solihull fans. I know that everyone in the dressing room will be wanting to do the same. I always go into the season thinking 'win your home games' and that's as simple as it is. Pick up what you can on the road, but your home form is always important.'
Thanks to Tom for participating in our latest Vital Interview!
To view last week's Vital Interview with Solihull Moors midfielder George Carline, click here.