Rossendale Free Press

Loyalty underpinne­d Rams century squad

- TONY CUNNINGHAM THE RAMMY XI: (back) Bernard Morley, Lee Gaskell, Andy Dawson, Grant Shenton, Danny Warrender, Jon Robinson, Anthony Johnson; (front) Phil Dean, Joel Pilkington, Grant Spencer, Dominic Smalley

IN November 2013, Ramsbottom United achieved a feat that very few clubs at nonleague level could – they boasted a full XI players who made over 100 appearance­s for the club in a 7-1 win over Burscough in the Northern Premier League.

Here is Tony Cunningham’s article about the record.

Loyalty amongst players at any level of football appears to be a thing of the past, and especially so in the non-league game.

How refreshing, then, to report on one club which could field an entire team of players who have all completed over 100 appearance­s for the side.

That side is Ramsbottom United of the Evo-Stik League Division One North.

Joint-player-managers, Bernard Morley and Anthony Johnson were appointed by Chairman Harry Williams in the summer of 2009, after a number of indifferen­t seasons in the North West Counties League.

Their tenure began with a 5-0 away defeat at Newcastle Town, which hardly augured well. Little did they know that Town were to embark on a 30 game unbeaten run as they raced to the title that season.

From that soul-destroying start, the new management duo put a side together that climbed the table and eventually finished in fourth position.

The following campaign was even more successful as they clinched the runners-up spot.

Only one side gained promotion, however, and

for their third season, they targeted top spot and automatic promotion to the Evo-Stik League. After another highly entertaini­ng nine months, the title was won, and amongst great celebratio­ns at the newly-named Harry Williams Riverside Stadium, Ramsbottom United reached the highest point in their 46 year history.

The first season at the new level provided yet more entertainm­ent for the ever-growing band of supporters in the town.

With one minute of the last game of the season remaining, (away to Champions Skelmersda­le United), the Rams looked like clinching a play-off spot. A late, late goal knocked them down to sixth, and agonisingl­y they missed out on the end-of-season lottery.

Anthony and Bernard are now into their fifth season in charge, and having enjoyed some cup success, now aim to catch up on missed League fixtures, as they once again

target a place in the playoffs.

Throughout their reign, a number of players have stayed for the ride. Indeed, they have been a major part of the success story, as not only has the camaraderi­e kept them at the stadium, but the entertaini­ng and expansive style of football has been another reason.

Now the Rams have a full line-up of eleven players who have all notched up 100 or more games for the side.

●●WINGER Phil Dean is on 203 (162 + 41subs), midfield dynamo Joel Pilkington has turned out 191 times (176 + 15), influentia­l skipper Andy Dawson 176 (172 + 4), and raiding winger Dominic Smalley 170 (141 + 29)

●●LEGENDARY striking duo Jon Robinson has notched 157 appearance­s (143 + 14) and Lee Gaskell 148 (121 + 27)

●●RELIABLE keeper Grant Shenton can count 152 games (151 + 1), whilst the management duo

have taken to the field 275 times between them, Bernard Morley 148 (135 + 13), and Anthony Johnson 127 (104 + 23).

●●COMPLETING the line-up are competitiv­e defender Danny Warrender with 108 appearance­s (none from the bench) and midfielder Grant Spencer 101 (88 + 13).

●●ON the bench, and fast approachin­g the magical three figure number are towering, but currently injured defender Ian Flannery 93 (90 + 3) and influentia­l midfielder Gary Stopforth with 87 (86 + 1), and both could finish the season also passing the 100 mark (Stopforth did but Flannery didn’t play again)

How refreshing, in an age when players seem prepared to move for an extra fiver, to see such an example of loyalty from so many players, to both the club and their managers.

 ?? ?? ●●Ramsbottom United centurions in November 2013, including managers Bernard Morley, left, and Anthony Johnson
●●Ramsbottom United centurions in November 2013, including managers Bernard Morley, left, and Anthony Johnson

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