For the first time since prior to the pandemic, Moors fans were invited to and attended a Fans’ Forum at the club on Thursday evening.
Chairman Darryl Eales, Vice-Chairman Tim Murphy and Manager Neal Ardley were on a three-man panel, with the forum hosted by Tom Ross.
Here are the key talking points from the evening.
Neal Ardley on playing styles…
Those of you who have been at games this season will see that we try and play from the back. I’m pragmatic, I know what league we’re in and I know that the winter months will come, pitches will churn up and there will be wet and windy conditions.
You have to build a team that’s resilient and can play certain games a different way, we can’t just play lovely football all the time.
Sometimes you have to dig in and get teams turned, play on second balls, fight and scrap.
Initially, I’d love my teams to play good football and make loads of forward runs.
Tim Murphy on the relationship with the manager…
You come to watch football and as well as seeing a great result, you want to enjoy the experience of watching a football game like anything in entertainment. Darryl and I, from the get-go, wanted to enjoy working with somebody, other than just coming and winning football matches.
Every single conversation we’ve had with Neal from the very beginning was about working with someone we could get along with, enjoy our time with and get results.
It’s very important we work with someone we can have a great relationship with.
Darryl Eales on manager relationship and competitiveness of the National League…
It’s hard to fairly assess the progress of the club over the last two years because of Covid. Some clubs benefitted from Covid and some clubs didn’t.
For me, the board have got to be watching roughly the same game as the manager. On Saturday, we should’ve won that game comfortably.
If we played them again tomorrow, I’d put a lot of money on us beating them by two or three goals. We didn’t because of a combination of factors that Neal is fully aware of.
I actually loved the game. Even when we were 4-1 down, I was thinking ‘we might get something out of this’. We look a real threat going forward.
Tim, myself, and Neal will have a superb relationship and I think that will breed confidence throughout the team and players.
This season in particular, and this is my fourth season at Moors, is a division that has suddenly got a whole lot more difficult.
The last three years were probably missed opportunities, but this year there’s Wrexham, Stockport, Chesterfield, Notts County who have all got big budgets and big teams have come down from League Two.
This is about putting in the right foundations and if we can go close and be in the play-offs (and I’d love to win it), then fantastic.
This is about building so we can make sure that this season, next season, and the season after, we can have a right good go at getting out the league.
Neal Ardley on stats, the league and player recruitment…
I believe if you get Monday to Friday right, then Saturday becomes a reflection of that.
Everything we do in training is about the game and you absolutely have to, Monday to Friday, set a culture, environment and work ethic that will come out on Saturday at 3pm more often than not.
It’s too early to say in the league where we’re at. We collect a lot of stats – you’ve heard of expected goals now and stuff like that.
We collect a load of data and so far, our performances have warranted us being fourth in the league, which is 1.7 points per game, instead we’ve got 0.67 points per game.
The performances have been ok, but we’ve just been punished for every half chance the opposition have had. On Saturday, particularly, we were at our own downfall so to speak.
I think this team is capable of certainly being a top ten team. There are a lot of good teams up there so it’s going to be a case of who can be the most consistent.
However, we’ve got to get that first win before we can look at building anything going forward.
Lots of teams battened down the hatches when the pandemic hit and saved every penny they possibly could. It looks like a lot of teams have come out at the start of this season and gone for it.
There are a lot of teams who will expect to be there or there abouts at the end of the season.
Craig Cope and Greg Abbott work hard on our recruitment. We’re already looking to next season and we feel we’ve had a very good window in a short space of time this season.
We looked at the qualities we felt we didn’t have last season, our away form was a bit soft and we didn’t show that steel away from home.
We’ve brought in people like Lois Maynard, Matt Preston, Danny Newton – players with that little bit of edge to them which might solve that problem.
Going forward, we can’t notice players that are doing really well because then we’re competing with Notts County, Chesterfield, and it becomes a really hard battle.
We’re trying to find that gem, that young player who has got talent before he really hits the big time.
Neal Ardley on injuries…
We’ve had a lot of long-term injuries – Callum Howe, Alex Gudger and others.
We’ve brought in a new physio, Hollie (Augustus), who has been brilliant. She was thrown into the lions’ den, and she’s worked tirelessly with them to get Callum and Gudge back on the pitch.
James Ball has had an injection and a hernia op. He’s now back training, so that’s great – three really big players.
Jamey Osborne has been a tricky one because he’s had so many problems mentally with his knee where the feeling he had before he had the serious op, he keeps getting that feeling after the op.
We needed reassurance from the surgeon who said the op has been fine and everything’s great – maybe he was given an optimistic return time initially.
Now we’ve got to a point where his knee is feeling quite good but, as always, the rest of your body as you start loading, you feel little niggles and he’s going through that period.
Hollie and I have talked about maybe not doing the usual fitness work with him to get back, and almost throw him straight back into training and manage him.
When you’re running with the physio, you’re almost looking for that pain that you’ve had for the last nine months.
When you throw them into training, they’re so busy doing stuff they kind of forget about the little aches and pains they get.
Ryan Boot has been put through his paces all week and up until this moment, touch wood, is going to be fit for selection at the weekend.
Tim Murphy on being on the National League board…
From the get-go we felt, during Covid, that the communication from the board was very poor and we didn’t really know what was going on.
I put my hand up to go on the board and, a year and a bit later, I’ve probably done 30/40 meetings with the National League board.
In the main, they’re a great bunch of people who are desperately trying to do the right things.
For the most part, my job has been to keep the league going. I had a lot of conversations with Darryl and the board at Moors about how we made sure it started again last October and maintain a real league where teams can’t just call games off because of Covid in the ranks.
I’m still slightly nervous that will happen this season and it’s already happened with a couple of teams.
It was trying to represent not just our club, but football in general to make sure football gets played.
Darryl Eales on the Solihull plan…
We’re at the early stages of this, but I’m sure everyone is aware of the Solihull plan which is going through all sorts of discussions.
This site as you are all aware, for better or worse, is landlocked by JLR. It has been designated as a zone for employment.
Sometime in the next few years, this site will be taken over by JLR or someone affiliated with JLR.
It’s an opportunity for us to get a purpose-built stadium and this is where we need a positive PR campaign and everyone advocating for this – we need to persuade Solihull Council that Solihull Moors is a real football team and it will get into the Football League, hopefully sooner rather than later and we will represent Solihull fantastically.
Solihull is the biggest metropolitan borough council that doesn’t have a Football League team.
We’ve got a fantastic community foundation that does amazing work. When we start telling the council about this, they quite like it.
We have got to get a massive bandwagon of a PR campaign about the council helping us to relocate to a positive area where we can build a 12,000 all-seater stadium.
If we get in the league, I think we’ll get gates of that level because I want us to have the best community foundation in the lower leagues.
We can’t compete with the big clubs, but we’re going to do it from the heart. We are a community club because we wish to be, and we want to help our local community.
We have responsibility to our local communities and we’re not just playing at it.
Tim and I want Solihull Moors to be the best it can possibly be both in terms of on the pitch and also in terms of its community presence.
Neal Ardley on ‘getting the club’…
I got the club as soon as I started looking in when Darryl and Tim wanted to meet me. It very much reminded me of AFC Wimbledon where they’d had a couple of promotions and were punching above their weight.
They were a newly formed club that were trying to grow and that’s what I saw here.
After I left Notts the next job I wanted was a project and something where I could take a club forward, while having the time to do so. Putting all of that together, that’s why it was the perfect fit.
Darryl Eales on the future of the club…
I absolutely love this club in every single respect. That doesn’t mean that I’m any less ambitious and the first chapter job will not be done until we get promoted – even if that’s in 10 years’ time.
I was exceptionally fortunate to meet Tim through a mutual friend and he bought 25% of the club, almost without watching us play and then Covid hit.
We’re in this together and we’ve probably not had as much fun as we were intending. If this isn’t fun, then what’s the point?
It’s a game and a game we all love. I think this season, whatever happens, will be a season we all enjoy.
Neal is a top human being and a top manager. If you look at his record at Wimbledon, it is remarkable with the budget he had. Why Notts County made the decision they did, I have no idea.
I absolutely adore Trevor (Stevens) for what he did at Solihull Borough and Moors, and respect that history. But, we are determined to get this team into the Football League.
I would like everyone to advocate for Moors and bring all your friends, your family. We are working tirelessly to make this club successful and we’re all in this together.
When we mess up, we’re the first to go ‘didn’t do that the way we could, did we’. Sometimes as human beings we forget to say what we’re doing well.
Football fans, including me, sometimes focus on the negative but there is so much positive around this club in every respect.
This season we’ve had a lot of fans that are new to Moors and their feedback is unbelievably positive.
You can choose to moan or choose to be positive, but challenge. We are really positive, but we are our own biggest critics.
We’ve got a bunch of shareholders committed to fund this club for as long as it takes to get into the Football League.
Not many football clubs can say they’ve got a bunch of people who will back the club for the foreseeable future.
All I’d ask is that you give us feedback. If there are things we’re not doing as well as we could, it’s not because of lack of effort - we have got a fantastic team of people here.
Club Secretary Julia Shelton on stewarding…
Following feedback after the Wrexham game, Richard (Blackmore) and I had a meeting with the stewards. We noticed things were a lot different and there were a lot of new stewards that the company had provided.
A lot of them weren’t familiar with the ground and I think that caused a lot of problems.
Prior to the Weymouth fixture, we had an on-site meeting with them in the morning. We said that the customer service level isn’t good enough – we want people to come to Moors and be welcomed, friendly and the stewards need to know where the stands are etc.
They have been issued with little plans of the stands so when they are asked, they know where to point people in the right direction.
I do feel, at the Weymouth game, they took some of that on board.