Whilst the football world appears to have hibernated, life here at Ramsbottom United has been hectic, to say the least.
With the new management team firmly in place, a new squad is being assembled, and for the suffering supporters who have had to endure two miserable seasons, they can look forward to a much brighter future with the raft of new faces waiting to greet them as the new season kicks off on July 29th.
On the sidelines, the manager’s chair has been taken up by the experienced Steve Wilkes, with over 1,000 games to his credit, including promotions and a venture to the semi-final of the FA Vase.
Wilkes resigned at the end of last season after six years in charge of Northwich Victoria, a club once synonymous with top level non-league football. However, issues over the last ten years have seen the Vics tumble down the leagues and become a nomadic club, with the resultant fall in support. Wilkes had intended to take time away from the game before being encouraged to apply for the Ramsbottom post by his former captain at Darwen, and main club sponsor Phil Rose.
One of the reasons Wilkes was encouraged to make a speedy return was the potential he saw at The Harry Williams Riverside Stadium.
“For a club that had suffered two very poor seasons, to be capable of attracting average gates of 250-300”, commented the new manager, “I saw just how much the pulling power of the club could be with a winning team. That’s exactly what I hope to bring them, and I’m delighted to be here”.
Joining him as First team coach is someone well known to the regular supporters, Bolton-based Scott Campbell. Campbell was with Wilkes at Vics for four years having been at Ramsbottom in a similar role during Mark Fell’s time as manager.
The Goalkeeping duties are now in the safe hands of Lewis Hindley, who makes the short move over from Atherton Collieries. He has played for the likes of Atherton LR, New Mills and Ashton United, as well as also having a short spell at Ramsbottom United. After being on the bench at AFC Fylde last season, he realised that his longer-term ambition was to go into coaching, and he should be a welcome addition to the coaching staff.
The final summer recruit is new physio Callum Rigg who has been working to complete a Sports Rehabilitation degree at Bolton University. “I’m beyond excited to be joining Ramsbottom United to start off my career as a Sports Rehabilitator. I can’t wait to see what next season has in store for us”, said the newcomer upon his appointment.
Pre-season training is fully underway with a number of hopeful triallists amongst players Wilkes has brought in.
Around a dozen have already put pen to paper and the manager will be sifting through the remaining hopefuls over the next few weeks in order to put together a squad of around twenty players who he feels will give the Rams a good chance of regaining their Northern Premier League status.
As the new season officially begins on July 1st, player registrations begin on that date after which the club will be able to release details of those who have joined the Rams. A number have played before for the manager, and there will be a small handful who pulled on the blue jersey last season, although most have now left the club. Then there will be a number who have successfully come through the trail period as newcomers to both the manager and the club.
Following on are seven pre-season matches beginning with a trip to Nelson on Tuesday 4th July (7.30pm) followed by three more away games (Thornton Cleveleys Saturday 8th, Eagley Tuesday 11th and Bacup Borough Saturday 15th) before two home fixtures, against City of Liverpool on Tuesday 18th and Radcliffe on Tuesday 25th. Sandwiched between those is a trip to Stockport Town on Saturday 22nd.
The first month’s league fixtures are due out this week, with the full fixture list being released by the North West Counties League in mid-July.
In the Macron (League) Cup, the Rams are at home to the afore-mentioned Nelson on a date to be confirmed.
So as the club looks to draw a line under the past, everything is in place to take the Rams forward to what is hopefully a much more successful period.
To quote one regular supporter “We were becoming used to going to matches expecting to lose. Now we can turn up expecting to win!”