By Matt Badcock
Eleven points, three wins in 19 games and rock bottom of the National League.
That was the harsh reality for Solihull Moors when Mark Yates walked through the door with assistant Tim Flowers in November to take the managerial reins and mastermind a Great Escape.
Last Tuesday night, with a game to spare, safety was confirmed following a 2-1 win at promotion hopefuls Tranmere Rovers.
It’s been a remarkable turnaround for Moors as they seal a third season in Non-League’s top flight.
“It’s about the whole club,” former Kidderminster, Cheltenham and Crawley boss Yates told The NLP. “Tim and I spoke to the board and said we could get out of it, but we’d need things off them. We had a look at what we’d got for a few games but we felt we needed to change things and get better players in.
“We put a plan to the board and they backed us. Without that backing and without bringing in better players we would have been down at the end of February.
“We recruited in January, we’ve still got one of the lowest budgets in the league but hopefully the club can kick on now.”
Former England U20 international Kwame Thomas came on loan from Coventry City, National League title winning experience arrived in the form of Kyle Storer, Jamey Osborne returned to the club he’d starred at before joining Grimsby Town and Adi Yussuf made the move from Barrow.
Under Yates, Moors are unbeaten at home and have lost just five times as they built momentum to slowly climb the table.
“The work ethic Kwame Thomas brought along – we try to instil the squad that even the best players work for the team – was a big turning point for us,” Yates said.
“But we weren’t getting the results we wanted for the first four or five games and we went to the board.
“Tim, myself and Gary (first team coach Gary Whild), didn’t talk about moving up the table until we put results together. We said we needed back-to-back games.
“Between Christmas and New Year we went up to Barrow. If we’d lost we would have gone 15 points behind them. As it was, we went nine points behind Barrow. We turned it around quickly with a home game against Maidenhead and won 3-1. That was the first time we said, ‘That’s a start now. If the lads keep believing and working hard, we can bring in the players we want, then we’ve got a chance’. We always felt it would need a run and we were behind the eight ball for quite a period.”
Yates says he players deserve all the plaudits but admits at times the squad had to be patient to see their rewards.
“We’ve had various moments when we talked as a group,” Yates said. “With about 12 or 13 games to go we’d got to fourth bottom but it took six or seven games to get above the dotted line because teams fifth bottom kept winning. We said, ‘Listen, at some stage we are going to get out of it’.
“The old heads – the Storers, (Darren) Carters, (Liam) Dalys – have had an assurance about them. We brought in better players to ideally stay in the National League but we gave players 18-month deals to bounce back if the worse happened. Thankfully it hasn’t.”
And Yates feels the club can establish itself at the level.
“We were sold a vision and hopefully myself, Tim, Gary and all the staff as well as the players can keep improving and evolving. If we can do that we see ourselves a lot further up the table.”
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