With the football season well and truly underway, Birmingham Eastside spoke to Sutton Coldfield Town FC’s Director, Alex Moloney.
A less than ideal start
No football club, in recent history, has had the difficulty of organising a preseason in a global pandemic. Many club’s preseasons were disrupted by Covid-19, but the Royals’ preparations had even more problems.
“I think our preseason was a bit upside down to say the least in terms of closed doors and things, but we managed to squeeze in eight games.
“One of the problems we had with the eight preseason games, is we picked up about eight injuries, which obviously didn’t help preparation for the first team.“
This left the first team lacking in depth, and meant early matches were difficult for Sutton fans. This came to a climax with back-to-back six-goal defeats against Belper Town and Lincoln United.
“We started off with a 1-0 loss in the FA cup and then a draw in the league, we had those two heavy defeats. The heavy toll was pretty evident on the squad.“
Patience is key
Despite the poor results in the early weeks, Alex stressed the importance of patience in the way the football club operates.
“We’ve got a long history of patience with our managers, and the way we want to go about things, and we know that we can bounce back.
“With Neil Tooth, our manager, he’s been at the club in two spells in the last 10 years. We know what we’re getting. If things go wrong, we can trust him to make the changes required without any input from anyone else.“
This patience has been duly rewarded, Sutton have had some impressive victories in recent times. A 4-2 away victory over then top of the table Worksop Town, was the sides first league win of the season. This was then followed by a 5-3 victory over Kidsgrove Athletic two games later.
The trajectory for the Royals’ season definitely seems to have taken an upwards swing.
Having to be resourceful
There hasn’t been a great deal of support from the FA and Government for non league clubs, particularly for clubs below the first and second tier of non-league football like Sutton Coldfield.
“We haven’t had any direct financial support from the government other than the furlough schemes. We’re having to be very resourceful in generating our own money.
“We have had some help from the league, obviously with the PPE aspects to make a game safe, but generally speaking at our level we haven’t had a great deal of support.”
In the past weeks however, there have been some positive developments.
“It is good to see in the last few weeks that help is starting to be generated for the tier one and tier two teams. So, hopefully that’ll move down the pyramid to us as well.“
In spite of this progress, Alex believes it could and should have come much sooner, as money has been lost all throughout the summer.
“I think a lot of the teams higher up that have things like contracted players, bills, debts. They spent the whole summer, and what would be a busy August and September not playing football.
“Players still have to be paid, bills, maintenance, all the insurance. Revenue has completely dried up, at one point you couldn’t sell season tickets, your merchandise was shut, your bar was shut, you couldn’t have functions, the money was disappearing months ago.
“It’s four or five months too late.“
With fans not allowed at games involving clubs higher up the football pyramid, there has been an influx of new support at the club.
“We’re fortunate enough to have fans in, we’ve seen our attendances double because of spectators in elite football being banned.
“So, from that aspect we’re a little bit luckier than those in the tier one and tier two of non-league football, who have to have financial support from the government to even play.“
“It’s the only bonus we’ve got at the moment.”
The swathe of new faces at games has also been added to by a growing apathy towards the elite level of the game.
“One of my earlier roles, before the season, was selling season tickets. A lot of new faces and people were saying, ‘we want to get our football fix’ and ‘I’m not going to pay £15 to watch it on the telly’.“
Alex is fearful though, that this new wave of support will end when spectators can return to elite football.
With the possibility of spectators returning to elite football at some point in the future, Alex was keen to encourage support for non-league football.
“There’s more than 15 clubs within a half an hour to 45-minute drive of Birmingham city centre. Go and visit all of them, they are desperate for support.
“There are clubs in better positions than us, there are clubs in worse positions than us. All I can say is go and give it a go. Based on what we’re doing, they are safe to go to.”
Sutton Coldfield Town, like many non-league clubs, are a huge part of its surrounding community. To Alex and others it is important to support them, especially in times like these when they need it the most.
If you can, visit your local non-league football club, they can really benefit from your continued support.
What experiences have you had of non-league football? Are you now planning to go? Comment below with your thoughts.