Ramsbottom United has been rocked by the sudden departure of midfielder Richie Baker, who has joined NPL Division One West rivals Clitheroe.

Baker, who played in all three of the Rams’ fixtures this season so far, including scoring the Rams’ third goal in the 5-4 defeat to Barnoldswick Town in the FA Cup on Saturday, was announced by Clitheroe shortly before kick-off on Tuesday evening.

The 33-year-old joined the Rams in November 2019 from Colne and had a superb record of 17 unbeaten league games in his first 17 games before suffering his first loss at Clitheroe 3-1 in October 2020.

The popular midfielder, who played for Preston, Bury, Oxford United, Barrow, Tamworth, Stockport, AFC Fylde, FC United and Curzon Ashton before linking up with Colne and then the Rams under Chris Wilcock, reuniting with his only Bury team mate Tom Kennedy.

Baker made 27 appearances for the club across three season – two of which, of course, were deemed null and void and scored three goals. They were the fourth in the 5-1 win over Marske United and our first in the 2-2 away draw at Tadcaster Albion, both pre-lockdown before pulling the Rams back into the game on Saturday.

It was very much hoped that he would be the catalyst to help the Rams under their new manager Lee Donafee lift the side up the table but it wasn’t to be and he joined former Rammy duo Billy Priestley and Gary Stopforth further up the valley.

“They made him an offer he couldn’t refuse,” mused Donafee. “Stopforth is a very good friend of his and they offered him a good deal, maybe helping them out with coaching and that which is a real shame for us.

“I am gutted he is gone. He was one of the key figures for us and was brilliant in the dressing room but we can’t stop players from leaving, no matter how much we want them to stay.

“Ramsbottom is bigger than any player, it is bigger than me and everyone else. We wish him well, of course, but we are really disappointed that he has decided to leave, so early in the season.”

The Rams did manage to secure their first win of the season without him, however, grabbing a superb 2-1 win at Kendal Town.