by Richard V Isaacs

As the clock strikes midnight on Tuesday 31st December 2019, it brings to an end probably the most momentous decade in the history of Ramsbottom United Football Club.

The bare facts of the 2010s is that the club played 423 league matches and won 203 of them, drawing 73 and suffering 147 defeats so a win percentage of 48%. We scored 829 goals and conceded 638. We averaged exactly two goals per game against 1.5 for the opposition.

But the decade will be remembered for so much more than the statistics.

It will be remembered for two promotions, climbing into the Northern Premier League for the first time and then the Premier Division of such just two years later, and one relegation – the first ever for the club.

It will be remembered for seeing the club reach their highest ever league position, in level 3 of the non-league ladder.

It will be remembered for seeing its longest run in the FA Trophy, the remarkable 5-5 draw with National League side AFC Fylde and, of course, the long haul to the south coast and epic victory at Weymouth, in front of the intrepid 17 travelling supporters!

It will be remembered for record attendances at the Riverside – 2,104 against FC United of Manchester in 2015, 907 against Stockport County in 2014 and 743 will never forget that crazy February 2019 night against Fylde.

It was the 548 that saw the Rams lift the North West Counties League title for the first time against Winsford United in April 2012 that made up much of the support that saw the club continue to thrive.

And that rise in the club’s fortunes commenced with a managerial appointment that divided opinion at the time.

Many thought that the Chairman had been hoodwinked by two young lads who had played for the club over a number of years, promising a whole new emphasis at the club. Harry Williams referred to them as “Morecambe and Wise”!

Their case wasn’t helped by a 0-5 loss in their opening game against Newcastle Town.

However, that appointment of Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley commenced a managerial partnership that saw the club reach unprecedented levels of success andsubsequently saw the duo become television celebrities and the benchmark for joint manager positions across the land when they moved on to Salford City and collected three more promotions in four years.

The decade will also be remembered for the name of the ground becoming the “Harry Williams Riverside Stadium” overnight, without the great man’s knowledge, in recognition for his monumental effort for the club over 54 years.

A total of 296 players wore the Ramsbottom United blue across the decade and 14 of them played in over 100 games, almost unheard of in non-league football where the club were able, at one point, to field a full XI of players with 100 appearances.

Phil Dean with 294 appearances (247 starts and 47 off the bench) led the way ahead of Grant Shenton (278/1), Lee Gaskell (219/47), Dominic Smalley (189/32) and Joel Pilkington (187/21).

Jon Robinson, Grant Spencer, Andy Dawson, Luke Thompson, Gary Stopforth, Daniel Warrender, Jamie Rother, Jordan Hulme and Mark Sharples make up the XIV that reached over 100 games for the club – quite some team!

As mentioned earlier, the Rams scored 829 goals in the league – including a brilliant 99 in just 38 games in 2019, which matches exactly the 2012 league championship year, seeing 2.6 goals per league clash in both those years.

The departure of Johnson and Morley saw those sorts of numbers crash dramatically. In fact in the 2015 calendar year, the Rams won just 6 of their 45 games and scored only 41 goals, the only time that we had averaged less than a goal per game in a year since joining the semi-pro ranks in 1995.

The arrival of Chris Willcock late in 2018, a man who had played for the club in the mid-2000s, has brought back the good times as could be seen from the results of late as we sit in third place midway through the NPL campaign and the crowd numbers rise.

And his arrival has seen new names begin to appear in the Rammy goalscoring and appearance annuls.

Lee Gaskell’s 126 goals in the decade was by far the most in his 266 games with Jon Robinson finishing on 99 from his 207. Phil Dean with 60 and Grant Spencer’s 49 come close behind but then comes Nic Evangelinos with 39 goals in only 59 appearances, including a remarkable 11 in the memorable FA Trophy runs.

A total of 136 players have scored goals in the decade for the Rams – a total of 140 have met the wrath of the referee by having their names taken, a list that is led by …. well, go on, have a guess!

With 47 yellow cards and four reds, that honour goes to the legendry Jon Robinson ahead of Phil Dean’s 34 yellows and 2 reds. Andy Dawson matches Robbo’s four reds for the club.

It is hard to mention every player who played for the club in this period – there have been a great number that, as supporters, it has been a pleasure to watch.

You can name Dean Stott, Mark Ayres, Ian Flannery, Alex Meaney, Eddie Moran, Phil Edghill, Tom Brooks, Mark Drew, Sam Ashton, Tom Kennedy, Ryan Moore, Billy Priestley, Scott Burton, Lee Pugh, Owen Roberts (don’t mention Darlington!!!), Steve Howson, Andy Sensale – the list is long.

There are two more to mention. A player who played over 50 times for the club and one who played just once.

The first got on the field 52 times but 43 of those were off the bench and went onto score 10 goals – Kieron Pickup. And the other who’s Rams career lasted just 12 minutes after coming on as a 78th minute substitute at Colne in October 2016 only to receive two yellow cards and be sent off in the 90th. His name – Pierre Yamfam!.

So we say goodbye to the 2010s, a decade that will live long into the Ramsbottom United memory banks – the majority of it good, occasionally bad but with the club in incredible shape both on and off the field.

Over to you, 2020s.

Leave a comment