Exclusive: Former Stourbridge Manager, Andy Fisher Reflects On Their Achievements And Opens Up About His Shock Resignation

Photo: Anthony Dunn, Focus Dunn Sports Photography

This summer I made the decision to leave Stourbridge Football Club. A club that’s completely imprinted on my heart. A club that helped me through some difficult times personally and a club I love like a second family.

I have created memories with this football club that will stay with me forever. They are memories I will discuss with my children and their children.

My journey with Stourbridge and from tier eight to tier three has been one remarkable ride.

In the 2015/16 season, I had just been promoted with Kewford Eagles from tier eight to tier seven. Within my few years at tier eight, we had competed against a very talented Stourbridge side, at Kewford we prided ourselves on being organised and we feel that we competed well against them, even though they were too strong for us.

The way we set up and competed had been acknowledged at the time by the current manager of Stourbridge, as well as the legend that is the physio, Rich Drewitt. They supported the women’s team and its early development.

Following the manager’s departure at the end of this campaign, I was approached by Stourbridge and joined Stourbridge that summer following their promotion to the West Midlands Women’s Regional League (tier six).

Vice Chairman Andy Bullingham was an important part of my decision to make the move. I had no idea at that time that seven years later this man would become such a big person in my life and a lifetime friend.

Our meeting was in the bar area at the main ground War Memorial. A ground the Women’s team had not really graced albeit on the odd occasion. I looked around at this time and saw all the memorabilia, photos and old shirts of the club. I saw all the club’s success and the history of the men’s side of the club; however, I did not see anything around for the women’s team. 

I had no idea at this time how this was going to change and the memories and moments that were going to be created within that ground for me and the women’s section of the club. Some of the memories and moments are visibly on display at the ground now.

I met with Andy Bullingham and we “hit it off” straight away. I could see what Andy wanted to do with the women’s team and the girl’s side of the club. I am sure he could see in me, my passion for the sport and what I wanted to achieve.

I would be lying if I said that the first few years were easy. Actually, they were my toughest. Personally, away from football, I was going through tough times. I arrived at pre-season training with half a team, and a lack of equipment on a park pitch. Myself and a young coach at the time, Dan Andrews.

The group at the time were paying subs, fundraising at the men’s games for tracksuits and playing their home games on a college pitch.

Within the men’s side, it was all focused on promotion under Gary Hackett who had been at the club for many years. The men’s team were in and around the promotion places and would enjoy success in the FA Cup. Stourbridge had a magical feel about it.

Andy Fisher (left). By Anthony Dunn (Focus Dunn Photography)

The “One Heart, One Way” feel was evident, it had just not reached the women’s/girl’s side of the club at this point.

The women’s team that had started that 2016/17 season was a completely different showing in the 2017/18 season. It required a complete rebuild, my management style and straight approach was not always appreciated and it led to several of the current players to seek new challenges. 

As we all know, football is full of opinions, but I truly believe in my passion for building a successful team at Stourbridge.

We finished the 2016/17 season with twelve players and mid-table.

I am aware questions were raised and internally was unsure if my time at Stourbridge would last long. I was to prove others and myself wrong of course!

I had a three-year plan to rebuild the playing staff but a huge focus was to start to get the club to notice the section more, grow the girls’ junior section and get the right people around the club who had the same passion that myself and Andy Bullingham shared.

The following two seasons were much of a rebuild and found us finishing mid-table on the pitch.

Off the pitch, the women’s team and girls’ section were becoming noticed. The club’s board under the enthusiasm of Andy Bullingham could see my passion to drive forward the club in the women’s game. Things were changing, thriving girls’ section, joint team photos, supporters’ numbers rising, both first teams being called first teams within the club, integration of both men’s and women’s teams together and events, features in men’s programmes, tracksuits provided, players being able to play for free and not pay subs and several big games such as Women’s FA Cup games on the main War Memorial Ground.

“One Heart, One Way” was beginning to become very real. A culture and ethos I would imbed in everything we did.

This was not enough for my drive and passion. We needed to build a team that would believe in a project to achieve the dream.

In the words of Andy Bullingham, “The dream is to play the likes of Wolves and WBA.” A club like Stourbridge would never be able to do this from the men’s side of the game. However, from the women’s side, it was very much a possibility.

However, tier six was a long way from the goal at this time tier four.

To be promoted, you had to win your respective league. At this standard and time, it would pretty much take an undefeated league campaign. To do this, we needed to be adventurous, take new levels to tier six and really invest in the women’s sport.

I remember the moment incredibly well, looking back now quite iconic and a moment that changed the tide for me and so many along the way. It was the first time I had visited Mr Bullingham’s house. We sat in the kitchen at his home and discussed the next steps.

I presented to him a plan. “Invest in the players, give us a budget, do something tier six or tier five isn’t doing. Provide us with a twice-a-week training programme, a home pitch that is the women’s team pitch and let’s get investment for the team behind the scenes.” The rest is history. I took the call from Andy Bullingham, who had agreed to the proposal through the board and Chairman Andy Poutney.

2019/20 was a change of the tide. We made it big and put it out into the press and social media. It was definitely frowned upon and made people turn heads. I remember so many negative social media responses and even at times the players would experience comments on the pitch about being invested in.

Even though at the time, it seemed brass and in people’s faces, for us, it was the change in the tide for the women’s game and pyramid below tier three, now the norm in and around most football clubs.

We, little old Stourbridge had gone against the grain and invested in its players at tier six. I truly believe that we started a ripple effect within women’s football that is completely understated. I believe we had impacted the growth of the game.

This was the first moment for me that I knew, we were going to do something special in the women’s game, however little did I really know what was about to come.

That summer we started a build of players who really could see the project, the likes of Courtney Murphy, Esme Moran, Carly Aldred and later on Alex Nicklin and of course Amber Lawrence. These players could easily be playing in higher divisions at this time.

Photo: Anthony Dunn, Focus Dunn Sports Photography

It was at this time I brought in a team around me to build for the future. A certain Mike Harris joined me as Assistant Manager.

Mike was a breath of fresh air. I needed someone with ideas, but also challenge ideas to better me. Mike has excellent tactical knowledge of the game and is a fantastic coach. No surprise that he would later go on to succeed me as Manager.

Following Mike was the wonderful Cal Terry who became a huge part of the Stourbridge rebuild and success. Leading and promoting the girl’s section within the club would ultimately provide him success career-wise when he was given a full-time position within the club.

I always use the quote that I believe Jurgen Klopp said, “You are not the best at everything, you must get the best people within their fields around you and lead this way.”

Photo: Anthony Dunn, Focus Dunn Sports Photography

We were tipped to be the front runners and gain promotion to Tier five. Kidderminster Harriers were the true contenders. We had been pitched against them in the league early on in the season. We won this game at our new home at Hingleys in Old Hill a place, that wasn’t quite the War Memorial but we made home.

Many great moments would happen within this season and one notable game for me will always be the Wolves game in the Birmingham County Cup.

It was the game that gave us a real taste of what success would feel like if we were to achieve our dreams.

That day we lost on penalties after a 1-1 draw in 90 minutes. The biggest success for us was that we played in front of 515 supporters mixed from both clubs. I also note that the men’s first team manager (Ian Long at this time) and club officials from Stourbridge were present at this game. A truly momentous moment for the club.

I would never have believed that six years on from this we would step out at Molineux in front of 2,572 fans in the Birmingham County Cup Final against Wolves again.

We’d been unbeaten so far in the league and were due to play Kidderminster for the league title I believe the week of 29th March 2020.

Unfortunately, this game would not be played. Covid hit and football became secondary, a long-standing debate for weeks and months on what would happen with football would follow.

Unfortunately, the season became void. All the commitment, passion and hard work gone. However, this group would not be beaten, it created a togetherness that drove our culture and ethos. Again, we faced tier six and focused on starting where we left off.

Three games in, 25 goals scored, Covid struck again. Keeping the players fit through online sessions, social through online quizzes and gatherings were key at this time.

This time the league was not voided, a moment to enjoy but one we couldn’t really celebrate. The FA’s decision to provide upward movement through application. Our success and hard work over the last twelve months were rewarded. Tier five here we come!

It’s the 2021/22 season and Tier five was just special for us. We knew that one more promotion would give us the dream we had all desired and worked hard for. This season was going to be no walkover. We needed to strengthen to ensure we achieved back-to-back promotions.

In came players such as Millie Rogers from WBA, Meg Hadley from Leafield and key to the success the retaining of a majority of the current players from previous seasons.

We started the season well, playing two of the real contenders for the title. We had got maximum points from our first four.

Then came Sutton Coldfield at home. Sutton were one of the key players at tier five and were a strong outfit contesting the championship. This was a game we all remembered well, because it humbled us slightly. A certain Sophie Levick, who would later become a Stourbridge player scored a hattrick against us and Sutton beat us 3-0.

We reacted, like we always did and would go on to be unbeaten in both league and league cup.  What further added to this special season was the magic of the Women’s FA Cup.

We were building a togetherness both on an off the pitch, A group of people who were friends socially and worked for each other on the pitch. We would enjoy so many amazing occasions, from singing to early hours at the club and on the back of the coach to and from games. The culture and ethos of “togetherness” was something special.

Women’s FA Cup

In the 2020 season we had entered the cup at its earliest stage with the number of entries more than ever. We started the campaign against Port Vale in the Extra Preliminary rounds. We would go onto play and see off, Wyrley, Knowle, Worcester and Crusaders reaching the first round proper against, would you believe it, Wolves!

We ended up being knocked out at this stage losing 3-0 under very strange circumstances again due to the Covid outbreak.

In the 2021/22 and now in Tier five we came in at the Second Qualifying Round and started with a victory against old enemies Kidderminster.

This game I remember well, it was played at the War Memorial in front of a decent crowd and we were exceptional. We showed our true step up from previous years and the steps we had made on the pitch.

We would then see off Solihull Sporting in the next round. The group had felt success getting to the First Round proper the previous season and waiting for the draw on a Monday gave us all excitement. We would all be on Twitter waiting to see the draw.

The draw for the first round Women’s FA Cup 2021/22 season… Derby County vs Stourbridge.

What a draw! The buzz through the camp was great and plans were ahead for a coach of supporters and players to go over to Mickleover and give it our best. We were joined by our growing fan base at the time and first team managers Leon and Stu, including several club officials.

Derby were playing some great football and competing at the top of tier three with the likes of Wolves. At the time they were one of the titles favourites for tier three.

This would become one of the most incredible moments of my career in football.

Photo: MrRosePhoto

We arrive at Mickleover, full of confidence, fully prepped and with nothing really to lose. I felt in the air on the day something was going to happen. I felt Derby were over confident, I watched them in the warm up and felt a sense amongst Derby that they believed we were going to be “brushed “aside.

Something stuck with me that day. I remember the pre-chat with the referee. He came over to me and shook my hand and his first comment to me was “are you all excited about your big day out”. I was taken back and felt a sense of disrespect. However, I felt this around the place at the time.

My team talk was done for me. I informed the group of this comment and this just fired them up.

We found ourselves 1-0 down within the first minute. A horrible goal from a corner that should have easily been dealt with. We had a game plan and that had knocked it slightly. However, like always this group were unphased.

We equalised through a Mil Rogers goal from outside the edge of area and scored a second before half time through a great goal from Alex Nicklin.

We went in at half time 2-1 and the group just believed we could win the game.

We were absolutely pushed second half and Derby got an equaliser towards the end of the game. I thought we would just let it slip at this point, we had competed so hard and run our legs off.   

However, up stepped Courtney Murphy. She had been out injured and was coming back from fitness, I had always planned to use her within the game to help see the game out and get us through.

On she came, we were defending for our lives but Derby were throwing everything at us, sending everyone high up the pitch. We kept one player high and Derby lost the ball with minutes to go on the edge of our eighteen yard box and the ball is cleared.

We are pretty much 2 v 2 just in the Derby half. The ball dropped to Courtney and I remember Gee Thacker on the bench shouting shoot. I’m thinking, do not shoot, hold the ball get us up the pitch and break.

Courtney stuttered and set herself. The Derby goalkeeper is well off her line and Courtney just unleashes. The ball drops over the top of the Derby keeper and in the net.

I still get goosebumps now. It was just an incredible moment.

The full-time whistle pretty much followed, we had caused a huge “cupset” and the celebrations were extraordinary. Stourbridge Women had arrived, what we were creating was special and success was still to come.

I strongly believe that the fan base was a huge factor in many of successes. I believed in the one family culture and would make time to speak to fans and involve the younger ones in match days.

We invited fans into the family, and they absolutely returned the favour. They became friends of mine but also friends of the club.

The social media, the flags, the publicity and the songs. What a group you all are! Thank you for supporting us all the way!

The second-round proper gave us a draw against higher opposition again Cambridge. We would hold on to a 2-1 win to reach the third round proper of the Women’s FA Cup.

I remember the news and press at the time. We were featuring in places I could not believe and had press visiting our training sessions.

Round Three and in come the big players. The draw is made and we pull an home draw against Championship side Sheffield United. What a moment!

On the day we were all presented with a Stourbridge shirt with Stourbridge vs Sheffield United by the club. We lost 0-3 on the day but the occasion was just amazing.

This shirt sits proudly on my wall at home.

“We are National League”

After an incredible journey in the FA Cup, we had to focus our priority back on promotion to tier four, the FA Women’s National League.

We went on to win tier five by ten points and complete the double with the League Cup beating Kidderminster in the final.

We had finally made it. Four years on and we were stepping into the “heart beat of women’s football.”

Photo: Anthony Dunn, Focus Dunn Sports Photography

“We don’t stop” A phrase I used in my speech at the end of season awards following our promotion to tier four. It was a phrase that I didn’t realise at the time would play a significant part of our 2022/23 campaign.

The National League was a breath of fresh air. A completely different journey and commitment to the ones we had just come from.

Back-to-back promotions could only give us momentum, we had to continue to better ourselves on the pitch and off it.

We were not jumping into tier four to make up the numbers that was for sure.

We pulled in players such as Niamh Deasy, proven goal scorer in the division we had just won and Sophie Levick who we knew a lot about following her three goals against us the season before.

We were raring to go and face a club of history Sheffield FC away. We were shell-shocked. Losing 2-0 in the first game of our National League campaign.

I remember the coach journey back home. It was like we had just been relegated. We were picking apart everything, it’s just what me and Mike did to ensure we continuously improved. We knew what we had to do to improve and following a tough few sessions we saw the improvement in training immediately.

Lincoln arrived at the War Memorial and we found ourselves 3-0 up within twenty minutes. We were devastating.

By Christmas we found ourselves in a position I did not see at the start of season. The position that newly promoted Stourbridge were favourites for the title and promotion to tier three.

My team talks would feature the statement “we don’t stop” regularly. The rest…. Became history

Anthony Dunn, Focus Dunn Sports Photography

We backed the league success with an outstanding run in the National League Plate making it all the way to final where we were defeated by a strong Leeds United team, whilst also making it to the Birmingham Women’s County Cup Final for the first time against Wolves eventually losing 3-0 at Molineux.

We went undefeated in the league until we were officially crowned champions with two games to go. We finished the season twelve points clear of second place Doncaster Belles.

The first season in the National League and we achieved the Championship and reached two cup finals.

The moment we were officially crowned champions I remember it like it was yesterday, I broke down in tears to my knees. I remembered the meeting in the club back in 2016, the park pitches and the rebuild of a new team. We had completed the unthinkable, back-to-back to back promotions.

I celebrated with family in the crowd and then with Andy Bullingham and Andy Pountney.

The dream had come true. Little old Stourbridge were going to be playing teams such as Wolves, WBA, Nottingham Forest and Newcastle United.

We had achieved the remarkable, we didn’t stop.

We were presented with the official league trophy at Leafield last game of the season.

It gave me one my best memories. Finally looking into the eyes of Andy Bullingham saying “we did it, we made it happen.”

Bullingham and Fisher. By Anthony Dunn, Focus Dunn Sports Photography

This photo sits in a beautiful black and white print (presented to me by the Chairman of Stourbridge) on the wall of my office at work, reminding me of our achievements.

We completed our success at the amazing Women’s National League awards, picking up several individual awards. One of my proudest moments was to be awarded the Manager of the Year award for Division One Midlands.

Unfortunately, the image above would end up becoming more significant to me, it would become my last happy memory at Stourbridge.

I had been thinking for a while about my departure at Stourbridge. I celebrated the success of winning promotion to tier three when lifting the trophy in these happy moments.

I did not rest, recuperate and sit back to enjoy what we had just achieved. Looking back now it’s something I hugely regret.

My son is nine years old and loves his football. I took a call from his manager at the time of the team he was playing for. It was a respectable call, but it was a call that hit me hard. A call where he needed to move to another team to get more football.

When I was growing up, I achieved so much in junior/grassroots football. League and cup winners, top goal scorer awards, players player awards and manager player awards. This was hugely achieved because of my dad’s encouragement and involvement in my football.

I had realised that I had neglected my son’s football. I had given up my son’s football for Stourbridge Football Club.

I wasn’t always able to attend his games and the ones that I did, my mind would be preoccupied with thinking about our opposition and what my team talk would be. I felt a sense of guilt.

We had several issues behind the scenes to sort and these completely consumed my pre-season. Mentally I did not shut off. I was drained.

The new season hit straight away and the demand to build a team to stay in tier three was exhausting. The shift in the women’s game had hit tier three, like no one could imagine. Horrendous timing for little old Stourbridge.

Several teams within the division announced their professional models which would make things really tough. However, I will add that this was what the game needed to grow.

Attempting to add quality to the group, whilst getting the current group ready for tier three was hard. I have a demanding job where I am lead for Safeguarding and Behaviour in a secondary school, something that can also be mentally and physically challenging.

The issues presented in pre-season would push me to offer my resignation, similarly to the way the journey started, I met Andy Bullingham for a drink and told him it was time. The conversation with Andy at this time and talking to him, completely shifted my mind at and gave me another bar of energy to give tier three a go. “Why stop now?”

Unfortunately, things for me did not improve and I found myself drifting further and further away from the manager I had been twelve months prior. I started to lose my enjoyment of the game before a ball was kicked in the league. I was carrying a stress on my shoulders that I did not need to carry.

The Forest result at the start of the season hurt, but I wasn’t that concerned. It hurt me because I went against what I knew was right on the day because I wasn’t mentally strong at the time.

We should have played with resilience, been tough and defended like we had always done. Instead, I allowed my head to drift and we were punished on the day. I saw this as a weakness for the first time in myself. I blamed my mindset.

Photo: Anthony Dunn, Focus Dunn Sports Photography

It was Halifax away that was the high point. Looking back now, that point is as good a point as any so far in my opinion. Halifax were tough and we were ahead most of the game. We played with heart and desire, but we conceded last kick of the game. We came away with a great point.

However, I did not see this. It was the toughest coach journey back I had ever experienced. I should have been happy with a battling point. Instead, I walked through the door at home and broke down.

The lack of rest, break and mental shut off just hit me. WhatsApp 24/7, player discussions, team selections, training plans, staffing and much more had just taken its toll.

In my mind, I had departed Stourbridge.

At this point, let me say, that all managers out there deserve respect and understanding of the mental and physical demand the role takes, especially when maintaining a family and full-time job. This must be respected.

Following games against Wolves and the Derby in a three game week, turning up to work on Monday morning to deal with safeguarding young children, it was time!

My resignation to Andy Bullingham and Andy Poutney was given. They understood.

I met with them at the club and on arrival at the club, I embraced Andy Bullingham. It was the end!

In my nature, I did not want to make this a big thing. I wanted to say my goodbye and allow the players to focus on a key game away at Fylde.

We agreed the sooner the better to announce my decision and waiting to do it face to face at training would not be useful for the team. I later regretted this decision. I don’t feel I said my proper goodbye to the team and club I loved.

The announcement was made to the group and the social media press release went out. I cried from that moment most of the evening.

I could not believe the following 24 hours of messages that were sent to me and posted. When you’re in the mix of everything for many years, you do not realise the impact you have on so many. I was truly shocked and reading messages helped at the time.

I have explained the moment to people like splitting up with a long-term partner. It was tougher than I could have ever imagined. I miss it every day and question daily if I made the right choice even 24 hours of my resignation. However, I know it was right at the time.

I have had to take drastic measures to cope with the situation mentally leaving Stourbridge. This included cutting people out that I spoke to every day for years. However, I felt for me and for the team it needed distance.

Football is full of opinions and people have different leadership styles, which ultimately dictates decisions. Even though I do not agree with all the decisions made since my departure, it actually doesn’t matter. A new era is in place for Stourbridge and I have faith they will stick in tier three. I am supporting them all the way from a distance.

People move on and new adventures start. We ALL need to remember:

We walked the same ground

We wore the same shirt

We wore the same badge

We achieved the same dream


This is just a snippet of my journey from tier eight to tier three. Stourbridge Football Club will be forever in my heart. It will always be home.

Thank you to everyone who’s made this journey to date so special. For now, I sit back, enjoy being neutral and I await the right opportunity to return to the women’s game in whatever capacity that may be.

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