2015 will go down as Ramsbottom United’s “annus horribilis” after the most traumatic twelve months in the 50-year history of the club.
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED 2015 REVIEW
by Tony Cunningham
It’s an ideal time to look back, as we approach the end of December, but this year there are no rose-coloured glasses, for even if there were there could be no masking the horrendous events that the club has endured.
As we entered 2015, we did so without a victory since 2nd December, but no alarm bells were sounding. Five successive defeats in all competitions was hardly what we were used to, but had we had a crystal ball we would have seen many more coming!
New Year’s Day’s trip to Nantwich brought yet another and with it the bombshell that the management team were to decamp down the road to Salford City, and the class of 92. So their illustrious five-year stint in charge of the Rams, successful though it was, actually ended with the sort of run that would have resulted in the sack for many a manager.
Jon Robinson, who had rightly become a “Rammy legend” stepped up to the plate to take temporary charge, supposedly safe in the knowledge that most of his team-mates would stay in an attempt to push on for a play-off spot that was tantalisingly close.
If you need proof that loyalty is a fast disappearing trait in football, we soon had it. Eight players and the rest of the coaching staff all walked out, in effect ruining all the good work they had done in taking the club through the leagues.
Postponements followed, with under the circumstances was probably a good thing. Robbo had the onerous task of having to assemble a new squad in mid-season – a poisoned chalice if ever there was one.
The only game in five weeks for the much-changed line-up turned out to be a Doodson cup tie which was won against Northwich Victoria at the end of the month, followed by yet more cancellations.
Any hopes that such a break would allow the new-look team time to gel, hardly reflected itself on the pitch. A position just outside the play-offs vanished as the team slipped worryingly down the league table.
It took seven attempts to finally gain a league victory, away at Stourbridge in March, but any euphoria gained that day disappeared in the return game at the Harry Williams Riverside Stadium just four days later – the Midlanders gaining swift revenge.
The rest of the season saw progress made in the Doodson Cup before a disappointing home defeat in the semi-final ensured that no silverware would be arriving in Ramsbottom this year.
Fourteen more games had to be squeezed in before the end of April, but just two of them produced victories.
The good form during the early part of the season had been the salvation of the club, as relegation was narrowly avoided.
The summer break could not come quick enough.
The chance for Robbo to sort out a team of his own making, and pre-season looking promising. We were the bookies favourites for relegation, but such a forecast invariable leads to a sleeves-rolled-up and “We’ll show them” attitude.
The new campaign began down in Rushall, where last year we had returned home on the back of a 4-2 victory. Not so this time, as a poor performance saw us go down by two goals to nil.
Two home defeats against Buxton and Hyde followed before a first point of the season was gleaned away at Whitby Town. Hopes were high of a turn around in fortunes. Sadly, they never materialised.
Five straight defeats, including being knocked out of the FA Cup at the first time of asking at Buxton, then a single point at Stamford, where we threw away a 3-0 lead, saw the parting of the ways, as the Rammy legend decided enough was enough. Jon Robinson ended his six years with the club, unable to turn performances into points, and the club was already marooned at the bottom of the league.
Assistant manager, Phil Edghill, took the reins temporarily, as the club looked for a successor. Defeats continued, including a walloping at Nantwich Town where the 7-1 defeat was probably the year’s nadir.
Having received a number of applications for the manager’s position, despite the seemingly hopeless situation, the club finally appointed the experienced Garry Vaughan, who had enjoyed major success at Trafford, where, after many years as a player, he guided them up from the North West Counties League into Evo-Stik Premier in his first managerial post, a trip similarly enjoyed by Ramsbottom United a year or so later.
With assistant Edghill and coach Wayne Goodison helping out, Vaughan’s first task was to look at the assembled squad, replace those he felt were not up to it, and begin the long and onerous task of bringing in suitable replacements with the ability to haul the club out of it’s predicament.
No-one at the club expected things to turn around overnight, but the signs over the last three months at least show that there’s a chink of light at the end of the tunnel.
Having gained five points out of nine on October, including a convincing 4-1 victory over Whitby at home, – the first three pointer of the season – optimism was beginning to return.
To ensure that no-one would be carried away, a silly eighteen minutes at Hyde United around the half-time period saw the Rams concede five goals and slip to an embarrassing defeat, quickly followed by another, yet again at Buxton, although to be fair, the performance in the 1-2 reversal probably deserved a point at least.
Being pitted against in-form Ashton United in the FA Trophy through was hardly the best draw the team could have had, but the Rams produced an excellent display to deservedly earn a draw at Hurst Cross and another chance at the HWRS three days later. Once again there was nothing between the two teams, and penalties were required to separate them. In a contest which saw the back of the net bulging, seemingly forever, it was the Rams who finally failed for the first time – with the 20th spot kick!
Another win, this time in the reverse fixture from that so disappointing-contested game on the opening day at Rushall finally saw the Rams into double figures for the season. Still bottom of the pile, but with a narrowing of the gap between themselves and survival.
Two away defeats at Halesowen and Ilkeston sandwiched an impressive Doodson Cup win at home to high-flying Division One North side Warrington Town. This was after the match had been postponed three times due to the inclement weather that had settled on the country during November, and by the time the Stamford game was played the Saturday before Christmas, and another point gleaned (or should that be two dropped against fellow-strugglers?) for a variety of reasons, eight game has been placed on the postponed list.
That became ten as the Christmas programme was literally washed away by the flooding which again saw the HWRS under three feet of water, resulting in the home game against Workington falling foul, and the much-anticipated Boxing Day game at Salford called off.
Last season was frustrating enough with twelve matches postponed. Alas, it looks like this campaign will be even worse.
What is still to come, as we look towards 2016, is roughly half a season in which the club’s fortunes need to improve dramatically if it is to avoid a first relegation in half-a-century’s existence.
Garry Vaughan continues to tinker with his squad as the strengthening process begins to bear fruit. It’s going to be a long and hard four months, but after the traumas of the last twelve, 2016 will surely prove to be a much more enjoyable year.