Non-League Daily’s feature ‘The Bosses’ Lounge’ is back for the fast-approaching 2018/19 season, exploring in detail the footballing minds and personalities currently leading the way from the dugouts of non-league. The first of this new season is a man who knows the feeling of standing tall at the peak of English football – Tim Flowers.

The former England international and Blackburn Rovers’ last line of defence in their unforgettable 1995 Premier League title triumph, he arrived with Mark Yates last November to assist in leading an astounding salvage job for Solihull Moors in the Vanarama National League. With Yates returning to the EFL this summer to step into the Macclesfield Town hotseat, Tim was the man for Moors. Engaging, sage and self-deprecating, here is a look into one of English football’s popular characters, as he reflects on his lifelong love of the game and shares his ideas as his return to management kicks fully into gear.

Solihull Moors FC

 

A late-April, Tuesday night in Birkenhead: the setting for the latest in the suspiciously long line of unofficial Great Escape sequels. This one, though, was arguably more astounding than most. As Alex Reid swept a left-footer into the far corner to put Solihull Moors two ahead at Tranmere Rovers, the seal had ultimately been put on a remarkable clamber to National League safety.

The 2-1 win gave Moors an unassailable six-point buffer between them and the drop zone and actually pushed them as high as 15th going into the final match. It was a picture that even the most imaginative of minds would have struggled to conjure up when Tim Flowers arrived with new manager Mark Yates just a few months prior.

The club were sitting bottom of the table with three wins from their opening 19 games, and at Christmas, they were 12 points from safety. Liam McDonald had started the season at the helm, before Richard Money took over in early-October, only to resign before November came around.

The Tranmere victory in their penultimate fixture meant they had lost just five of their last 26 games, while their defence shipped only 15 goals in that time, having conceded an eye-watering 41 in their first 19 matches. Young Coventry City striker Kwame Thomas came in on loan as the first signing, with Yates telling him ahead of his debut at Maidstone United to ‘go and show my team what hard work’s about.’

The 22-year-old, who later joined Moors on a full deal, grabbed the equaliser in a 1-1 draw in that first game; a point at a side in the play-off places which lifted them off the bottom. It was only the first flicker of a revival, but it set a benchmark in standards, and Tim begins by recalling what the incoming management duo wanted to implement as they took the reins.

“We had a few scenarios when we got in the building; obviously where we were in the league was a massive issue and we needed to change the squad around a bit. There were too many players and we wanted to thin that out in terms of numbers and get in a bit more quality, and the board allowed us to do that in January.

“We had a style of play which was physical, ‘in your face’-type football really.”

Admittedly, it takes more than physicality alone to yield results, especially for a team with their wheels firmly spinning in the mud, as Moors so clearly were. In addition to demanding a hike in work ethic, Tim spoke in November of a need for greater tactical discipline, while after survival was achieved, Yates also simply pointed to ‘bringing better players in.’

Following such a monumental feat, and with the slate now wiped clean, what is Tim looking to maintain as he steps up to sole charge of the 2016 National League North champions, and what is different about the task this time?

“I think we’ve maintained the core of that group from last season in terms of extending their contracts, or they already had one for this year. We lost one or two that were on loan and Mark’s took a couple of them up to Macclesfield.

“In terms of what’s been maintained from last season, basically the style that we’ve developed. We’ve brought a couple in; they’re experienced players, they’re not kids.

“So we expect pretty much the same, with the way that we’re coaching and going about our business into the season. If it ain’t broke, we’re not trying to fix it.”

 

 

There is, however, most certainly a next step sewn into the vision down at the ATG Stadium. Fondly remembered as one of the best of his kind in domestic football during his time, one-time Stafford Rangers manager Tim was a playing personality built on character and industry.

He played with kindred spirits in that sense, in the battle-hardened shape of Colin Hendry, Matt Elliott, Gerry Taggart and others, though attacking expression was also an indispensable ingredient. Few will forget the goals of SAS (Chris Sutton and Alan Shearer at Blackburn), but Tim also had mercurial talents like Matt Le Tissier (Southampton) and Paul Gascoigne (England) on his side along the way.

The wider football landscape is very different now, and nobody is more aware of that than Tim. He was Britain’s most expensive keeper in November 1993 when he swapped Southampton for Blackburn for £2.4million – just the £60-odd-million short of the fee Liverpool have just paid Roma for Brazilian stopper Alisson.

Moors are also four levels below the top flight that Tim and his Rovers cronies once proudly looked out from the highest point of. Non-league doesn’t tend to roll out the red carpet for free-flowing play, though Tim wants Moors’ resolute foundation to allow that to increasingly come to the fore as the months progress.

“We had a modicum of success with that (physical) style so we’ll roll with that and see how it develops, but we’ve got one or two quite good footballers in the building as well, and if we can get our heads above water and not have a slow start like the last couple of years, then these footballers will be allowed to express themselves a little bit more.”

As a player, Tim says he tried to add what he had been fascinated by as a young fan into his own game, putting aloofness aside to make supporters feel a part of the show whenever he could. As a manager, he hasn’t yet gone about securing a new player in the same way that Sir Kenny Dalglish did when signing him for Blackburn – insisting Tim stay over at the Dalglish house because Roy Keane went home for the night two weeks earlier and ended up signing for Manchester United!

On the subject of his former bosses, though, he responds to the question of whether there is anything they did that he deliberately steers clear of repeating.

“I think if you’re as honest as you can be with players you’ll get that respect and courtesy back. You can’t please all the people all the time, you can’t pick 16 players for each game, and that’s the way it rolls.

“You always try to take different things – ‘oh I like that,’ or ‘he handled that well.’ I’ve always been a big writer of things down; even sessions that caught my eye I’ve always written them down and sort of gone back to things.”

As we speak, Tim, who twice took caretaker charge at Northampton Town, is 15 years into a coaching adventure that started out with his former manager Micky Adams at Leicester City. It has been a voyage since, encompassing some famous club names he and his Blackburn comrades went toe-to-toe with in those halcyon days of the 90s – Manchester City, Nottingham Forest, Queens Park Rangers, and his club, Coventry City.

 

“I ran out to sweep up and booted Brian Deane instead of the ball – by the way, that was the slowest race for a ball I’ve ever seen!”

 

He did eventually don the gloves for the Sky Blues, in a 2002 loan in Division One, but they have a place in his career in any case for the many meetings his sides had with them, including one in 1998 in which he saw red despite not actually playing. Tim casts his mind back over that one.

“Well Coventry’s my team. I was sub that day, I was warming up, we were 0-0 and the lad went over in the box.

“It was nothing much, and Lodgey, the ref Steve Lodge, he waved play on. The linesman gives the penalty, so I’ve had a little word in his ear, he brings Lodgey over and says ‘oh he swore at me,’ so Lodgey sent me off, straight red.

“So I’ve got to walk the gauntlet, down the track, in front of the club that I support, getting hammered by the fans. (Blackburn manager) Roy Hodgson, as you can imagine, was not best pleased after the game; we get beat, I’ve been sent off and I weren’t even playing.

“There were repercussions, but I saw Lodgey a long time after, recently in fact, and he said ‘I shouldn’t have sent you off, I made a mistake.’”

The colourful moments like that were worthy brushstrokes on Tim’s playing canvas. That Highfield Road red sets his mind racing back to some other memories that would certainly take a place on any montage of his career.

“There’s lots of things. For a while I was the fastest Premier League red card; I was sent off for Blackburn against Leeds after about a minute.

“I ran out to sweep up and booted Brian Deane instead of the ball – by the way, that was the slowest race for a ball I’ve ever seen! There’s loads over a career, millions of funny ones; Stan Collymore’s shot that went over my head (after hitting a divot).

“(Tim is reminded of his comedy kiss with Middlesbrough striker Jan Åge Fjørtoft in a 1995 match) Jan Åge, yeah! But that was another one, me and him were having a bit of pushing and shoving and silliness at a corner and the ref said ‘I’m gonna send you both off unless you kiss and make up’!

“I think he still scored past me.”

Thrown into the firing line as a teenage custodian for Wolves, Tim also appeared for Swindon Town and Stockport County on loan at different points of his career. Without too much argument, though, the chances are that if you say ‘Tim Flowers,’ the images that spring to mind first will be of McEwan’s Lager-sponsored Blackburn shirts, skipper Tim Sherwood holding the title aloft at Anfield, and so on.

Former Chorley boss Matt Jansen, briefly a teammate of Tim’s at Ewood Park in 1999, mentioned on here last season the element of family he remembers vividly from his heyday in the blue and white in that part of Lancashire. Was that what Tim associates with the club from a few seasons previous?

“Yeah, without a doubt, we were very close. Shearer, myself, Micky Newell lived down Southport way, Formby and Southport, and then quite a lot of the lads lived round the Ribble Valley, Clitheroe, Whalley, outside of Blackburn.

“Some lived towards the Manchester way, but fairly close radius to the club, and yeah, we were tight. It was quite a raucous dressing room; no one was wearing headphones in them days or got their heads stuck in a phone, so it was mickey-taking more than anything, and people winding each other up.

“It was a noisy place to be; it was great. We enjoyed each other’s company; lads got in early and went home later because they enjoyed being around each other.

“That came from the top as well; Jack Walker, God rest him, fantastic man, would come in the dressing room before and after a game, win, lose or draw. He’d always sit and have a chat with you and wouldn’t hold it against you if you’d lost, didn’t get over-excited if we’d won.

“Pre-season, he’d put a meal on for the lads and come and say hello to them. The manager and the staff were good at cultivating it; it was a Liverpool adage with Kenny really.

“Never got carried away or looked beyond the next game or above yourself, just stayed humble, got your head down and worked hard.”

Nestled in firmly amongst those aforementioned quirkier happenings in Tim’s playing career is one that is synonymous with him at his imperious best. Six days later might just blow it out of the water, but May 8th 1995 is a date that bears eternal significance in Blackburn Rovers history.

 

“It’s the reaction of someone in one of the biggest games of their life in terms of what the result meant to Blackburn…”

 

As Kevin Keegan’s title contenders in waiting, Newcastle United, came to Ewood for the 41st and penultimate league game of the season, Blackburn knew that a win would put them on the brink of glory. It was a Magpies icon of the future in Alan Shearer who headed Rovers into a 29th-minute lead, and that would prove enough, as Dalglish’s side pulled it out the bag on the big night.

Tim was unbeatable, notably thwarting Rob Lee, Ruel Fox, Peter Beardsley and perhaps most impressively, John Beresford, on the way to a diamond-encrusted clean sheet. There was nothing especially outrageous about his post-match interview for TV, but it was a raw, superbly unfiltered reaction from a player who was rightly regarded as one of the best domestic keepers around at that time, but with an ‘everyman’ quality that fans still identify with today.

It featured the line ‘don’t talk to me about bottle, don’t talk to me about bottling it,’ plus one or two more ‘bottle’ mentions before he had finished, as he responded defiantly to questioning of his team’s championship credentials from a certain Manchester United manager. It was a fitting example of an era just before players would become media-trained to within an inch of their lives, and it is fondly remembered by neutrals to this day (well, most of them anyway…).

Tim laughs as he describes whether he was amused by the slight fascination with the interview thereafter, or if it ever got annoying.

“No, it’s quite funny! It’s the reaction of someone in one of the biggest games of their life in terms of what the result meant to Blackburn; I came off and I was interviewed a minute later.

“It was just a gut reaction to I think it was Sir Alex in one of the morning papers, because they played the following night to our game, against Southampton, and he questioned our bottle, basically, so that was what it was aimed at. Kenny and Sir Alex had a few little mind games if you like throughout that season, but it was just a mixture of everything: relief, the massive will to win what we thought we deserved to win anyway, and all that came out.

“It was a reaction to what I’d read in the morning before the game. I do get reminded of it, and that’s fine.

“It’s great; it’s part of Blackburn’s history and my history.”

Although the euphorically-charged nature of that interview is what makes it such a strong piece of Premier League folklore, it summed up what that Blackburn team had in abundance. When Tim talks of the team he is leading now at Solihull, he touches upon those same non-negotiable values when he says, ‘I’m happy to go into war with them. I’ll back them and hopefully they’ll back me.’

Former Birmingham City and West Brom midfielder Darren Carter is there to call on as club captain (and academy manager), while the new arrivals include in-form, experienced striker Danny Wright and Brackley Town’s FA Vase-winning defender Alex Gudger. Moors start their season this coming Saturday away to Andy Hessenthaler’s Eastleigh, and they do so after a pre-season which yielded nothing but wins until last Saturday’s 3-0 home loss to Kidderminster Harriers. ‘A wake-up call,’ Tim described it as, and that may well prove invaluable.

 

 

Also back at the club, as goalkeeping coach, is Nathan Vaughan, who memorably scored for Solihull at Torquay as they earned their first win of last season. When Vaughan was brought back to Moors in June, he said he used to pretend to be Tim when he played football in the playground at school.

As for the man himself, he sampled the full range in his playing days, from a League Cup, league title, European and international football, to relegation and a hip problem that confirmed the conclusion to his time between the posts. Just as we were reminded of in this summer’s World Cup, the beauty of football is that everyone is free to dream – something Tim still had time to do on his final career appearance, as it seemed for a moment that Micky Adams might let him take Leicester’s penalty against Wolves!

The realism will always be there for him, wherever coaching and management lead the 11-cap England international, but beyond keeping Solihull’s heads above water in the first instance, what does he think the club can go on to be?

“There’s a hell of a catchment area around the city of Birmingham. If you draw a 30-mile radius outside it, you tip in East Midlands, Nottingham, Leicester, down the south Oxford, out towards the west, sort of Cheltenham, and up north you’re going as far as Stoke.

“So there’s a hell of a catchment area for people who can get to the club and play. Clearly, it’s a club that is building.

“It’s a club that was only formed a few years ago (in 2007). They managed to get promoted out of the North, which is no easy feat, and then in the first two seasons in the National League managed to survive.

“Obviously, last year was a bit of a miracle and miracles don’t happen too often, but the longer you can stay at a level and acclimatise to it and recruit to improve within it, then the better chance you’ve got. We’re not a club that can throw huge amounts of money at it like one or two can, and good luck to them, because you have to find a way to be competitive.

“We’re going to be sensible, we’re prudent with what we spend, but we try and spend it wisely. There’s been a little bit of money there over the last six months, myself and Gary Whild think we recruited well last year, and it’s up to us to do the same this year.

“We’re not looking at shouting our mouths off and saying we’re gonna do this, that and the other; we’re looking to try and improve slowly but surely. That’s the way that I would think most sensible clubs will try and conduct their business.”

 

Each manager in The Bosses’ Lounge also takes on a unique Q&A…

When did you want to start coaching/managing?

Not until late because like most players, you think you’re indestructible when you’re young and fit. ‘I’ll retire when I’m 40’ and all that business. I had a hip problem at 36, which needed to be replaced, and that finished me. Micky Adams, the manager at Leicester, where I was a player at the time, said to me ‘go and have that done and then come and do the goalkeepers when you’re fit.’ That was round about the October time, so I did that, and I’d done my (UEFA) B Licence, goalkeeping, but I’d done no other, so I started doing my badges then. I sort of racked them up as quick as I could. It sort of hit home then a little bit, that I wanted to stay in the game and that was the way forward. I wasn’t interested in outfield, just purely goalkeeping, but the rest of it sort of grew on me as I did more and more coaching.

Which training sessions do you enjoy leading the most?

I think at the end of the day, you wanna win – that’s the bottom line. As a player, you want to come in and enjoy your training, so you want your group to enjoy what they’re doing, work hard, be together, have a spirit about them. We try and mix it up, but at the end of the day, I guess what you’re going to do tactically and making sure you’re double-organised from your restarts, all your patterns. That really, but I enjoy watching them enjoying possession and passing and small-sided games. I like the lot. Sometimes I enjoy watching Gary Whild and James Quinn on the training field. Quinny played 50 times for Northern Ireland and he’s a (UEFA) Pro Licence coach, so I enjoy watching that. I enjoy working with the players, having a chat to them, seeing where they’re at, just little things trying to improve them.

Will you ever take part in training?

No, I’m 51, I’ve had both my hips replaced – them days are long gone. I’ve had my time. Sometimes I’d love to, but I think ‘why the hell would I wanna do that?’ My hair’s greyer than Doctor Who’s, I’m wasting my time! I’ll stick to watching the younger lads do it.

Favourite ground (other than your own) that you’ve visited or would like to visit

(Highfield Road?) That was my Mecca, back in the day. I loved playing at Anfield as well; never won there, but I loved playing there. Both Merseyside grounds have a respect for the goalkeeper where they hammer you during a game but they give you an ovation. A place where I always tended to play well was Newcastle, so I enjoyed St. James’. I probably wasn’t a good enough player to go to those big European grounds but there’s loads I’d love to have seen.

Favourite player to watch (past or present)

My hero growing up was a fella called Tommy Hutchison, who was a left-winger for Coventry. Scottish international, 6 foot 2, moustache, wand of a left foot, old-school winger, could hug the left touchline, could beat defenders in a telephone box and then deliver a great range of crossing, could cut in and score a goal. I think most Coventry City fans would probably have him at the top of the list as the greatest player that played for the club, I would suggest. He was certainly my hero when I was a kid and I loved watching him. Then playing against players – Gascoigne – there was so many. Blokes who scored past me on a regular basis – Ian Wright – and then defenders, Tony Adams, Colin Hendry and Matty Elliott who I played behind. I didn’t play many international games but played against Brazil a couple of times and Ronaldo was up front in one of the games. I played against Barcelona for Blackburn in a friendly and Romário played. Goalkeepers like Peter Shilton and Ray Clemence; I ended up being number two to Shilton at Southampton and I loved watching Clemence for Liverpool. I used to sit up late at night when my mum and dad would let me; there was a show on at half past 10, so I could go to bed, they’d wake me up and I’d watch Liverpool against Dinamo Tbilisi or someone like that in Europe.

And how would you sell Solihull Moors to Tommy Hutchison if you were trying to sign him (in his prime)?!

Well from what I remember of him as a player, I’d probably say ‘you’re on penalties, corners, free-kicks, you’re captain…you can pick the team!’ But at the end of the day, we are where we are, and when we’re recruiting now and we’re chatting to players, we’re talking about honesty, commitment to the club. We’ve got a culture at the club where we’re strong, we’re organised, we’re solid, we stick together. We’re one of the smaller clubs in the division at the moment, there’s no doubt about that. We get 600-800 and I think ourselves and Boreham Wood had the lowest attendances (last season). When you’re in the middle of Aston Villa, Birmingham, West Brom, Wolves, Coventry, we’re sort of everybody’s second team, but that’s what we get for a home game. That was increasing a bit towards the end of the season and hopefully it will increase next season, but we’re selling it on having a really strong dressing room of good, honest boys.

Pre-season tour anywhere in the world

I’ll tell you where I’d take them – they’d be gutted – I’d take them to Wales. I like Wales; I used to go on holiday when I was a kid. I’d take them to Pembrokeshire – pack no balls, just run them stupid up and down the cliffs!

Most challenging/frustrating part of your job

It’s gonna get a whole heap harder when we’ve had no wins in six games, or we’re flirting with danger, but my glass is always half full and we’re hoping like any other team in any division in the world. Reality sets in ten games or 15 games in, in the National League, and you start to understand where you’re at. In the end, you’ve just got to tough it out. It’s a real tough division, so my tests are down the road at the minute. We haven’t selected the first team to play against Eastleigh yet, so no one’s been disappointed yet. Some are gonna be disappointed – that’s life, get on with it. So them days are down the road; at the minute it’s enjoyable, you’re having a look at everything. But I’ve got good people around me, so we’ll deal with it when it comes. We’ve assembled a strong squad, battle-hardened types, and we’ll take punches on the nose, but we’ve got to make sure we throw a few ourselves.

Funniest player/coach you’ve worked with, or just one of the funniest

Jason Wilcox at Blackburn was a very funny man. He could be in a new player or coach’s company for about five minutes and be able to mimic them, walk like them and all that. He’s actually an outstanding young coach up at Man City at the moment. There were a few at Leicester as well, in different ways; dry or loud. Neil Lennon, Garry Parker – Parks was loud and lively and funny. Stuart Ripley at Blackburn, he was one who didn’t say a lot but sometimes he’d say something and it’d be hilarious. It’d be dry and you’d think ‘where’s that come from?’

Most embarrassing moment as a manager/coach

My very first gig as an assistant manager was with Iain Dowie at Coventry and our first game we played, I think it was Wolves at home on a Tuesday night. We were in trouble and they were flying. We were winning and Iain made a change, and he said to me ‘right, when I make a change, you tell the boys what they’re doing with set-pieces etc.’ which I’d never done before in my life. I’m a Coventry fan and I’m thinking ‘come on, we’ve got to win this one,’ and we send Kevin Kyle on, someone’s injured and we’re defending a corner. Iain said ‘have you told him what he’s doing?’ as he’s jogging away, and I said ‘oh no, I’ve forgot.’ He’s gone ‘you…’ – I won’t say what he said! Thankfully, the corner came in and he headed it out.

Probably the other one was Andy King – another one, God rest him – when Aidy Boothroyd left Northampton, Kingy took over as caretaker. I was helping, I was still on the staff there, and again, we were in trouble a bit at the time. We were playing a home game and he said ‘bring so and so off’ and I was writing the cards you hand in to the fourth official. I think we were getting beat at the time and I’d written the wrong number and we fetched the wrong player off! He said to me ‘you better find a system that we’re gonna play here!’

Your routine on a matchday

When we were on a good run under Mark (Yates) last season I’d drive in to the home games the same way or something like that, but I’ve been at clubs where we’re having a bad time and I’ve run out of routes in the end! But generally, I’ve done all my work on the Friday, all the preparation’s done, unless you get that dreaded call saying ‘you’ve got to change the set-plays ‘cause he’s not fit,’ or whatever it is. I just have my breakfast and you tend to think about the game; it’s all that’s on your mind really. It’s the nearest thing to playing; that Saturday morning feeling, that knot in your stomach. The result matters, it’s a big thing. In a few hours you’re either gonna be pleased and everything’s going in the right direction, or you’re gonna have to revisit everything. But nothing special in terms of superstitions; I probably had more as a player.

One singer/band or song you would sneak on to the team playlist

The lads at Solihull have an iPod in a tiny little speaker and you think ‘what the hell’s that?’ and then it makes a noise like the biggest speaker in the world. I ain’t really having what our boys listen to; I can’t really understand it. I don’t mind a bit of the old-school hip-hop but some of the stuff now, I can’t understand a word they’re saying. It’s one of them; you know you’re getting old then I suppose! I like a lot of different music but reggae is my main one. UB40 have always been my favourite.

Advice you remember getting that’s stuck with you

Aidy Boothroyd said something to me at Northampton which resonated a little bit. He said ‘never assume that people know what you’re talking about.’ In terms of, sometimes you chat to the lads on the training ground, and you think ‘well they must understand that,’ but actually sometimes they don’t. So you’ve got to be absolutely crystal clear. These top boys at the highest levels, they can ad-lib a bit when they get into the final third, but obviously levels are levels. I think you’ve got to try and not assume that everyone knows what they’re doing. You’ve always got to keep hammering away your message at the right times. With Aidy, we were debating a game on a Monday morning and I said something like ‘you’ve got to assume he knows that,’ and Aidy said, ‘never assume.’ I’ve chatted to the lads (at Solihull) and made no apologies for the fact we’re gonna batter our shape and our restarts. Hopefully we can add more to our game than just that, but that will come in time.

If you could have some time with any manager, past or present

Oh wow…has it got to be one? Sir Alex Ferguson, Brian Clough, Bob Paisley, Arsène Wenger. Kenny Dalglish. Obviously I played for Kenny; same with Martin O’Neill and Terry Venables. There’s millions, but the great managers of my childhood would be Bill Shankly, Paisley, Clough. Those old-school managers. They’re becoming a dying breed now obviously, where it’s head coaches governed by foreign owners. I’d love to listen to those old-school voices who managed a football club and lived and died by that.

How have you changed since you first started coaching/managing, or what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?

Well I’ve learned as I’ve gone along really. I still might be naïve, and it’s not going to be an easy journey, for any manager this year. But I’ve listened to different people and been in rooms after games having a beer sometimes with different blokes, listening to what their views are, and you sort of pick things up as you go along. It depends on the level, but at our level, like most levels, the ball’s out of play for half an hour in a 90-minute game, so that means x amount of restarts and x amount of minutes left to play. The ball’s out of play in the National League a lot more than it is in the Premier League, so it’s horses for courses, if you like. I enjoy listening to people who know levels, like my assistant Gary Whild. He’s managed Redditch, finished 2nd in the National League with nearly 100 points at Kidderminster; he knows the game inside out at this level.

Any misconceptions about you as a manager/personality, myths you’d like to dispel, or something you wish people could understand a bit more?

No not really. What I’ve been is what I’ve been and we aren’t gonna live forever. I’m 51 and I’ve enjoyed my football career to date immensely. Was I the best player? No. Did I do better than I ever thought I would? Yeah. I was a grafter; that’s why I’ve got two new hips. I worked ‘til the cows came home and I loved it. I enjoyed diving around, trying to better myself, and whatever level I got to, wasn’t through luck. Coaching-wise, when I was working at higher levels I always watched non-league football and kept my finger on the pulse of players. Sometimes it’s harder having a million Football League and non-league players in your head, and who’s playing where, but I want to improve myself and Solihull Moors if I can.

And finally, what’s the best thing about having this life around football? When you wake up and football’s your focus for the day, do you still get that same buzz as you always did?

Yeah, I’ve been out of work loads of times, for long periods of time as well; 18 months twice. I’ve always got things to do, I’ve got different hobbies – I like gardening, I’ll go fishing, things like that – but in the end, I love sometimes when you get that sweat on, coaching. With a goalie, thinking ‘you could do this’ or ‘I could help you as a centre-half; if I was playing behind you I’d have you doing this.’ That’s what I’ve done since I was 16, since I left school, and before that, Sunday league since I was nine. That’s what I do, and when I pack in football, I probably won’t be doing anything else, that’ll be me. I’ll be digging weeds out of the garden and that’s it!

Interview/article by @chris_brookes

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