MATCH: City of Liverpool v Ramsbottom United
VENUE: vanEupen Arena, Rivacre Park, Ellesmere Port, CH66 1NJ
COMPETITION: The Pitching In Northern Premier League Division One North
DATE: Saturday 14th August 2021
KICK-OFF: 3.00pm
DISTANCE FROM RAMMY: 57 minutes, 53.2 miles

Tickets are available on their website and this is their preferred way of administering tickets sales. The link to their site is here.

You can pay on the gate – adults £8, concessions £4 – but City of Liverpool FC would rather than you didn’t (to save cash handling and also give them some idea of numbers for catering) so please do get your tickets early using their on-line system and help out hosts out.

It was 31 October 2020 – Halloween, a day that some describe as the ‘day of the dead’. What Ramsbottom United supporters and the rest of the non-league footballing community didn’t realise at the time was that it would also be deemed to be the day that the 2020/21 league season died too.

Covid-19 numbers rose again and the nail in the coffin for a second season in succession was hammered in.

A lot has changed in those 287 days. You wouldn’t expect anything else in non-league football and it has been no different at the Rams either.

Manager Chris Willcock has departed for Workington and a number of players – Mason Fawns, Sefton Gonzales, Tony Donaldson and Luke Thompson – have all gone elsewhere too.

Lee Donafee was swiftly appointed to take the reins, to keep as much continuity as possible and he has stamped his authority on the team already making some impressive signings ahead of this much anticipated, long-awaited restart.

The return of Jamie Rainford and Tom Stewart have certainly made the supporters sit up and take notice while some talented young guns like Cameron Collins and Tom Glover and Development graduates Owen Collinge and the returning Regan Jarrett have whetted the appetite.

But now it is time for the real stuff. Pre-season has passed, with some upheaval towards the back end with the managerial departure and a couple of players too, but that is all gone and it’s time to focus on the first game with City of Liverpool.

It will be a new home ground for the hosts as they move to ground share with NWCFL Premier Division club Vauxhall Motors after ending their five years link with Bootle. So the Rams head to the vanEupen Arena in Ellesmere Port hoping to kick off their campaign with a win.

The Rams have not lost an opening league game of the season since the relegation season of 2015/16 (when we had to wait until the 16th match to register our first win). Wins over Goole 3-1 in 2016/17, Tadcaster Albion 2-1 in 2017/18, Market Drayton Town 2-1 in 2018/19 and Widnes 3-2 in 2019/20 and 4-1 in 2020/21 means the Rams have kicked off each of the last five seasons with three points.

Prior to that, you have to go all the way back to August 2010 to find our previous opening day win – 3-0 at Flixton.

Now then… have we or haven’t we?

If you believe the official line that the last two seasons are null and void then… hello, City of Liverpool FC for the very first time!

But the reality is that the Rams and the Purps have met twice previously and you can read all about them in our ‘Have We Met’ article here.

Manager Lee Donafee is ready to go! “I am feeling really good,” he said. “I don’t really get nervous and I have confidence in the team but, as far as tomorrow goes, I will have to see how I feel as the game goes on.”

But he has some very difficult decisions to make before the game kicks off at 3pm on Saturday, none more so than who is in goal.

“This will be the hardest decision I have ever had to make in football as we have Ollie [Martin] and Tom [Stewart] both available and it is a hell of a choice to make. Some say it is a good headache to have – I tell you, it really isn’t.

“I have got probably two of the best goalkeepers at our level battling for one spot.”

He is trying hard to get Ramsbottom born-and-bred player Will Hall over the line on loan from Altrincham and it will be a test against time to get him signed in time for the game.

“He has been outstanding since he came to us but I know Alty don’t want him to go and I can see why. He is desperate to come, he is a great player with a great personality and he’s a Rammy lad, who we hope to be able to get him over the line in time.”

There are a couple of players missing – Khalil Osi-Efa is injured while Cameron Collins is on holiday and a couple of others are just returning.

“Will Hall and Owen Collinge are both in firm contention to play on Saturday as is James Murphy, who we have picked up from Litherland REMYCA.”

One player with a familiar name is also being lined up to start – that is Godwin Abadaki, the brother of Osebi Abadaki who played 48 games from the Rams in the 2014/15 season.

“I managed Godwin at Shaw Lane and he’s a great lad so I am hopeful that he will feature at City of Liverpool.

“I think I know my starting XI – bar the goalkeepers. If you gave me £1m, I couldn’t give you an answer as to who it will be.”

It is hoped to speak to a member of the staff, whether it be player, management team, coaches or back room staff before each game and RamsbottomUnited365 are delighted to be able to start this by talking to a man with 139 Rammy appearances to his name – Jamie Rother.

Jamie is commencing his eighth season with the club, having made his debut way back in February 2015 in the 1-1 draw with Stamford. He has seen the highs and the lows of the club across his time but he is excited about the prospects for the forthcoming campaign.

“It is a long time to be at one club, especially in non-league football but I enjoy playing here and I am really looking forward to starting up again.

“It’s a new season, a new start but hopefully we will pick up from where we left off in the previous few.

“With Diego coming in, not much has changed really but he has brought his own ideas with him and everyone is looking forward to working with him. The dressing room is still as good as it has ever been and we have kept the spine of the team together.

“Some players have come and gone and it is always a bit of a revolving door at our level but we have kept TK, Eddie, Richie, Domaine and Dharius while players like Tom Stewart have come back into the group.

“The last few games in pre-season haven’t been great but that is because we have been light on numbers but we know once we have got everyone back together, we will be ready. And we will be for the game on Saturday.

“Liverpool is never the easiest place to go and we are sure the game will be a tough, physical one. But we have to match that early and go into the game with confidence.

“They have got a new manager too so will be keen to get off to a good start, but so are we and it would be nice to get the season off to a 5-0 win away from home!! But we know it won’t be as easy as that.”

So, the big question? Who are likely to be Rammy’s main challengers ahead of the season. “You always have to fancy Workington and it will be interesting to see how Marine go this season after their brilliant FA Cup last year, which would have brought in quite a bit of money for them.

“There are no easy games for us and it could be any one of six to eight clubs but we have got the quality and the management to be up there. Our main focus this season is to get promoted because the last couple of seasons, we were right up there and there is no reason why we can’t again.”