If we can pull off an upset on Saturday then we will write another bit of history at the club and we can dare to dream again, says Ramsgate boss Ben Smith

Wednesday 01st November 2023

RAMSGATE manager Ben Smith insists his side do not fear Woking going into Saturday’s home FA Cup First Round tie.

The Rams are in fifth-place in the Isthmian League South East Division table with 15 points from their six games.  They are eight points adrift of surprise leaders Three Bridges, who have played four more games.

Ramsgate’s six match unbeaten run was ended by Hythe Town last night, who reached The FA Trophy Second Round for the first time after beating a young Ramsgate side 3-1 at a rain-lashed Reachfields Stadium.

Woking arrive on the Kent coast sitting in 12th place in the Vanarama National League table with 22 points from 18 games.

Darren Sarll’s side have lost four of their last six league outings and needed two games to beat Vanrama National League South side Hemel Hempstead Town in The FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round.

Ramsgate, meanwhile, have beaten three higher division sides in The FA Cup this season, including Chatham Town, Cray Wanderers (in a replay) and AFC Totton in the final qualifying round.

“It’s going to be a great day for everyone,” said Smith.

“The FA Cup is not my priority, so we’ll go out there and do our best to win the game.  We’ve got no fear. I don’t see us freezing on the day. If we lose, we’ll lose because we weren’t good enough on the day but we’ve got experience in the dressing room. 

“There’s absolutely zero fear from us and we’ll go out there and try to play our game but knowing we’re up against very good opposition.”

Smith is relishing the underdog tag – but in truth Ramsgate have a squad that are more than capable of beating Woking on their artificial pitch in front of a sell-out all-ticket crowd at the weekend.

“I didn’t think we were underdogs in any of those (FA Cup) games. On paper maybe, we’ll not even on paper. If you look at the teams, player-for-player, then of course we’ve been an underdog but our results have not surprised anyone, they haven’t surprised me.

“But what The FA Cup has done for us, it’s given us a real platform to bed in a squad of players. We’ve signed two players from last year. 

“It’s given me an opportunity to make Ramsgate feel like my club. I certainly feel it’s my club now, which does take time.  I know it sounds strange but people now talk about Ramsgate, they know that Ben Smith is the manager of Ramsgate.  At first, it’s like it takes time to create that connection.  I’m absolutely die-hard Ramsgate now on everything and I’m obsessed with Ramsgate and you don’t get that overnight, that takes time.

“If we got through the last round, one of our supporters said he will have a tattoo of Mike West on his arm, so to create that bond is going to be massive going forward.”

Jim Ward’s class of 2005 reached the FA Cup First Round for the very first time and lost 2-0 at Nuneaton Borough and Smith is keen to create more history for the eighth-tier club.

“If we can pull off an upset on Saturday then we will write another bit of history at the club and we can dare to dream again,” said Smith.

“When I came into the club I had a Q&A with the supporters and I said it’s half a battle people have had here is sort of the ghost of Jim Ward and his great side and that still remains very true.

“What I’ve done is just embrace the history and we’re not trying to compare ourselves to that side, we’re simply trying to take what they did as inspiration and build on it.  They left a legacy at the club and hopefully me and my set of players, hopefully, can leave a legacy at the club.

“Woking are going to be a tough old side, very physical, very well-organised but they’re not invincible.

“I want our fans to enjoy it, let’s have a great day, enjoy it, no trouble, let’s enjoy the game, get behind your team. A thousand kids are going to be there – give them a day they’ll never forget. Let’s create something that they can aspire to do in the future.”

Smith has guided Canterbury City to The FA Vase Semi-Finals, won promotion with Herne Bay via the Isthmian League South East Division play-off system – and is very keen to land promotion with Ramsgate at the end of this season.

When asked how this FA Cup run rates in his managerial career to date, Smith replied: “I don’t think you can ever put a cup competition up there unless you go and win it.  You can never put a cup promotion up there with a promotion.  You think of the blood, sweat and tears it takes to go and get a promotion.

“When you get one, you know what it takes then. Before I had one, you talk about it but talk is cheap. It takes an awful lot and I think when you get one you learn an awful lot of what it takes to go and get one.  I know it sounds quite cliché or whatever but it’s true.

“It’s certain things you take and reflect on. You think they’re the things that make a difference. 

“To get us promotion, now that will mean something huge.  For the club The FA Cup, doing this, is incredible but it puts what we do in terms of off the first team pitch it puts what we do as a club. It puts it in to the spotlight and what we do as a club at the level of non-league we are, it’s quite incredible.”

Smith is keen to bring reinforcements into his squad moving forward.

“Do we need to strengthen in certain areas and to be honest with you, the answer is probably no – we don’t need to strengthen.

“However, with the run of games that we’re about to embark on, I would be doing Ramsgate a dis-service if I didn’t add one or two into the squad, so that’s what we’ll be doing.”

Ramsgate  v  Woking
The Emirates FA Cup First Round
Saturday 4 November 2023
Kick Off 3:00pm
at Prices Avenue, Ramsgate, Kent CT11 0AN