Saturday 7th November 2015 3pm
Evostik Premier League (step three)
Ramsbottom United 2 Rushall Olympic 1 ht: 1-0 att: 203 ent: £9, prog £1.50 coffee: £1
Tolley og 27, Payne 84 : Benbow 54
from Harry Williams Riverside Stadium (pictures here)
In German there is an excellent word, Weltschmerz, which describes the belief that physical reality can never satisfy the demands of the mind. Often I find the idea of a new non league ground and day out disproportionately exciting to the reality that unfolds, which can be for many reasons; bland venue, poor match, disappointing pre-match drink or sometimes for no discernible reason. Actually I find an inverse relationship between how excited I am before a game and the subsequent enjoyment.
Well, the Ramsbottom experience was the opposite of Weltschmerz, transcending all expectations. Certainly within the subset of non league days out. My Dad was up for the weekend and was happy for me to choose an obscure ground to visit. I plumped for Ramsbottom, for the connection to the East Lancs Railway, as my Dad is a steam train…enthusiast. (Yes, the words Apple and Tree spring to mind). We drove to the terminus of the East Lancs railway in Bury, and while there were no steam trains parked up, there was the next best thing – real ale. The Trackside bar is as the name suggests on the platform, selling food and real ale; one of those bars with so many pumps, they are listed on a blackboard. We sat with Bury fans and had the soup and roll; I washed mine down with a Tweed IPA.
We looked into the idea of getting to Ramsbottom by steam train, Harry Potter style, but the times weren’t propitious.
Ramsbottom are quite a recent club, formed in 1966, by the still current chairman, Harry Williams, whose name is now added to their Riverside Stadium. Almost 50 years since he co-founded the club he is still there and deserves the recognition in the ground name. They started out as a park pitch team but have made large strides in the last 20 years.
After the first 30 years in local leagues they entered the pyramid in the NWCL in 1995, although didn’t get floodlights until a couple of years afterwards. After 17 years in the NWCL they won it, gaining the one promotion spot to the Northern Premier League. In only their second year in the Evostik they gained promotion to its top flight via the play offs, beating Darlington and Bamber Bridge.
This is their second season in the Premier, but are rock bottom. The visitors were another club who only recently are experiencing life at such a high level – Rushall Olympic, who are in mid-table.
Ramsbottom the place, is not named after the backside of a male sheep but from the old english words ramm and botm, meaning valley of the ram. It is a small market town 6 miles north of Bury in Greater Manchester.
The ground is down from the station, to the east of the town centre and next to Ramsbottom cricket club. As the club has risen through the pyramid it has gradually built up the stands and covers, with the latest addition a sponsors’ lounge in 2013. As you come in there is the changing rooms and snack bar, in front of which is the hospitality suite, which looks out onto the pitch.
To the right you have a flat covered terrace and across the other side is a four row stand with a covered terrace further up. Behind the other goal is a four step covered terrace.
It’s in a rustic setting with the pitch covered in a fall of autumn leaves. Despite being bottom of the league Ramsbottom played well and deserved to be in the lead. Not for the first time this season I’d seen a bottom-of-the-table team play excellent football. They needed a bit of luck with their opener which was an og – a hard cross from the touchline into the box was put in his own net by Tolley – the Rams deserved it.
Early in the second half came the inevitable soft equaliser that must follow a team at the bottom of the table going ahead in a game. This seemed to affect the home team’s confidence that had been apparent in the first half. However, they plugged away and in the 84th minute Payne came down the right and dinked into the area. Everyone was expecting a pass back across goal, but he tried his luck at the near post…and it went in under the keeper. The crowd went mad – it was a great moment for the beleaguered club and a massive three point boost.
Superb ground and match.