by | Apr 18, 2024

Back in 1995, the Rams took the decision to step up into the semi-professional ranks of non-league football after nearly 30 years of playing in the Bury, Bolton and Manchester Leagues.

It was a huge task but one that was not taken lightly as the ground was brought up to spec required for the higher standard with the arrival of floodlights and stands.

Joining the North West Counties League Division 2, the league season had been one of learning under the hugely respected and much missed Ken Bridge. Having finished 7th in the Manchester League the previous season and 15th out of 18 the year before, it was always going to be a major task.

Winning eleven of their 34 games, the Rams finished in a comfortable 12th place with 39 points. But it was in the Second Division Cup where the Rams excelled and they would bring home the first piece of semi-professional silverware, the Lamot Pils Trophy.

28 years to the very day – Thursday 18th April 1996 – Ramsbottom United and Cheadle Town travelled to Darwen to play the showpiece final. But, as former Bury striker Steve Johnson revealed in the report to the Rossendale Free Press, he knew they were going to win.

For Johnson had never been on the losing side in a cup final, even when he was playing for the Shakers and this was his 11th Final success. “I am the lucky mascot, I knew we would win it.”

The Rams might have had Johnson as their mascot but they also had another mascot to call upon – “Harry”.

Here is captain and now club President Phil Rose. “Roger Davies, who was the groundsman at the cricket club and his son Paul is one of the Rammy Ultras now, brought a Ram to the game, an actual Ram! I think it shocked Cheadle because, believe me, it was scary, it wanted to head butt everyone that went near it.

“It was a very angry Ram – so we called it Harry! It reminded me a bit of Warren Brierley who was the captain of the Cheadle team who joined the Rams the following year!!!”

It was a scrappy game but the Rams were given the lead when Mel Burke scored in the first half but Mark Gordon equalised on the stroke of half-time to leave the score at 1-1 at the break.

Johnson, who admitted that this would be his final season with the club, wanting to spend more time with his family although Chairman Harry Williams quipped that “I have bought him a new pair of boots so he will carry on”, hit a rasping 30 yards drive which smashed against the post with the scores still level.

The winning goal was scored by Rose. “I scored the winner,” he said. “The ball came into the box and was bouncing around everywhere and it was lucky enough to fall at my feet.

“We had the perfect team for a cup run,” he added. “We lacked experience but had loads of potential. Ken had already recruited Russ Brierley from Cheadle but he was cup tied. We also recruited Dave Betts and Ste Davies along with Russ’ brother Warren for the following season, we then had steal in time for the next season, which we went on to win.”

Warren Brierley wouldn’t see the end of the game as he was sent off just before full time but Rose was as delighted now as it was then, stating in the RFP report, “this is a great win for the club especially for those who work so hard behind the scenes. Also, before the season started, some of the players were digging holes for the stanchions. They deserve this.”

The final words go to the manager, Ken Bridge, who was massively proud of his charges to bring home their first semi-pro trophy. “We fulfilled our objectives but we did it because of the support we got from our fans. They were terrific.”

Cheadle Town 1-2 Ramsbottom United – on this day 28 years ago.