I had four offers in the summer and I met them and for whatever reason I didn’t think that was the right one, says newly-appointed Ramsgate manager Tony Russell

Monday 10th June 2024

TONY RUSSELL says he’s feeling excited after being appointed the new manager of Ramsgate yesterday.

Former Erith Town boss Russell, who clinched the league title with both VCD Athletic and Cray Wanderers earlier in his managerial career, left Isthmian League Premier Division side Lewes at the end of last season after three years in charge at The Dripping Pan.

Ramsgate parted company with Ben Smith on 7 June after failing to win promotion from the Isthmian League South East Division, finishing runners-up to Cray Valley (Paper Mills) and losing at home in the Play-Off Semi-Finals for the second successive season.

“I’ve had a bit of an interesting summer.  I had four offers in the summer and I met them and for whatever reason I didn’t think that was the right one,” said Russell in a club statement.

“Although the break has only been probably four or five weeks, it has felt like a break.  I haven’t had to recruit, I have switched off from everything and just relaxed, so I do feel pretty fresh.

“I have got some ideas that I’ve been working on.  Managers will tell you this time of the year is probably the hardest because you’re always meeting players, on the phone, so it’s hard to have clear thoughts.

“It’s been a good exercise and I’m looking forward to try to implement it here at Ramsgate.”

Russell has appointed Joe Vines as his assistant manager, someone who has been by his side at both Cray Wanderers and Lewes.

“We drew up a list of things that were the most important things for us and that was a really good pitch, good training facility and a club that wants to grow, so we can all grow here,” added Russell.

“We’re not really people that wants to jump around from club to club. I don’t want to just bounce around.

“I want to stay somewhere and build and grow and I think trying to find a club that was going to match that. If you grow, they grow with you.

“One thing that blew me away is when you look at Ramsgate from afar, I think people have got their perception wrong about them.  They think everyone’s got major money and everyone’s getting big, big money.

“I got offered more money in the summer. If it was about money, I would’ve gone somewhere else, so I’m quite comfortable with that.”

Russell revealed the work that the eighth-tier club do in their local community in Thanet.

“The work that they do for their community is outstanding and I don’t think people realise it.

“I mean they’re feeding families in the area, foodbanks etc. They’re providing laptops for under privileged kids to do their homework, even teaching kids to ride a bike and swimming lessons and giving out hours and hours of free sessions on the pitch.  There’s even helicopter rides going on with kids who haven’t been even on an aeroplane.

“They’re the things that I’m absolutely as excited about as the football side. I said to James (Lawson, chairman), I would love to be a part of that.

“I come from humble beginnings myself. I’ve come from a council estate from south-east London, so that sort of thing, people don’t realise that but that’s very important to me.

“I’m absolutely delighted to be here, I really am. I’m excited about it.”

Russell has been in negotiations with players in recent days and has already agreed to sign a couple of new players for next season’s title challenge.

When asked about his summer transfer dealings, Russell replied: “A little bit of movement. There will probably be one or two that might have to move on and we’re going to bring a few in but on the whole, it’s been a positive start.

“We’ve already made some positive signings as well with new players in so there’s two that have agreed at the moment. Obviously, we can’t announce them yet until we’ve got the paperwork done but I’m having conversations with others.

“There’s loads and loads of work to do. We’re going to be really busy for the next four to five weeks. We go back to pre-season (on Thursday 20 June) as well, so I’ve got to plan all that as well.

“I’ve got a lot of work to do but football moves quickly right.  One minute you’re sitting on your sofa and you’re planning your holidays and the next thing I’ve just had my phone glued to me.”

Ramsgate have retained prolific striker Joe Taylor, who scored 53 goals last season, which helped the Rams finish runners-up to Steve McKimm’s side, losing out on the title by six points.

Cray Valley lost only one of their 38 league games last season, while Ramsgate suffered five defeats, the biggest blow was losing 1-0 at home to Chichester City in the Play-Off Semi-Finals in what turned out to be Smith’s last game in charge of the club.

Russell said: “Everyone in non-league football saw the stuff the guys were doing last year and Ben Smith and the team done some great stuff in the FA Cup run and coming so close in the league, it was fantastic.

“I know a lot of the players. I kind of watch a lot of games as well, so I’ve got a lot of good knowledge of the players, obviously one in particularly. I know probably more than most of them in Joe Taylor.

“I’ve been really tapping into him because the good thing is JT knows me and what the expectations that I want from the players and what I’m going to bring.

“He tells me about the fans’ and just how passionate they are.  I feel like I’ve got a real good inside intel on the club, the players, the area.

“I think it’s important I get in there and get to know everyone and understand what it’s about.

“I’ve had some really good conversations with existing players. They spoke really well. I’m excited.”

Vines revealed Ramsgate will play the exciting, attacking football that Russell is renowned for.

He said: “It’s an exciting project on the whole. I think it’s a huge club. I’ve got some familiarity with the club having been down the road with the noisy neighbours at Margate as a player.

“I think it’s exciting. The size and the scope. When you look at the youth section, when you look at the work in the community and I think for us we’re not just looking to come in and just be football managers as such. We want to be apart of a project. I think it’s got huge opportunity for growth and for that to happen here.

“We’ve got a philosophy that we’re a possession based passing team and often we build a very exciting front foot attacking side that try to go out there and score lots of goals and win football matches and we’re hoping to replicate that here.

“The other thing is with 1,500 or 2,000 people walking through the gate every week, we want to entertain people, so I really feel that there’s an opportunity to do that here.

“We’re renowned for having really exciting wide forwards, wingers and attackers.  We had Joe Taylor playing for us (at Cray Wanderers) for quite some time so it’s good to be reunited with him.

“We’re fortunate here we’ve got lovely facilities, got a fantastic pitch but we’re going to be playing away for half of the matches, so we’ve got to be able to fight on multiple fronts. We’ll build a team that can do that and I think that’s the most important thing, so it’s not about individual players as such. It’s about building a team that can face any foe on any terrain.

“I think there’s already a great grounding. The previous management team have done a great job with that and really building that togetherness with the community as a whole.  We hope to continue that and hopefully progress it to the next level.”

Ramsgate kick-off their pre-season campaign at home to Bearsted on Tuesday 2 July (19:30).

Kevin Stevens guided the Honey Lane outfit to their highest ever finish of seventh-place in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division last season.

Visit Ramsgate’s website: www.ramsgatefc.co.uk