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Former midfielder Lee Minshull shares memories of his years with Ramsgate and AFC Wimbledon before their FA Cup second-round clash at Plough Lane

Lee Minshull could do with a half-and-half scarf when he settles down to watch AFC Wimbledon v Ramsgate in the FA Cup Second Round.

Work commitments prevent Minshull being at Plough Lane on Monday night but he’ll be tuning in on ITV4 as two of his old clubs lock horns.

Lee Minshull on the ball for Ramsgate during his Southwood years.
Lee Minshull on the ball for Ramsgate during his Southwood years.

Both mean a lot to the former midfielder, with Rams plucking him from Sunday League football in 2005 and helping him become the player who won promotion to the Football League with the Dons in 2011, via a spell at Tonbridge.

“It’s hard to pick between them because they both had such an important impact in my career,” said Minshull, 38.

“Ramsgate shaped the start of it and if I hadn’t met the people I met and done what I did there, I don’t think the rest would have happened.

“So that was a real key moment in my life and my career to end up where I ended up.

“And with Wimbledon taking a punt on me, I don’t know if anyone else would have taken me on full-time other than Wimbledon at that time.

“To be there when the club got back in the Football League after nine years and for them to give me the opportunity, I remember that fondly as well.

“That was a big moment in my life and my career.”

The FA Cup tie would have been the perfect opportunity for Minshull, a quantity surveyor in London these days, to pay his first visit to Plough Lane.

They were playing at Kingsmeadow during his Dons years between 2010 and 2012, while the club worked on plans for a new stadium near the site of their original home.

A trip to the ground will have to wait but with the game picked for live TV coverage, Minshull is intrigued to see what happens.

League 2 Wimbledon are big favourites but Isthmian South East leaders Rams – the lowest-ranked team left in the competition - can take inspiration from upsetting National League Woking in the First Round.

“I was thinking about going because Wimbledon have always invited me back to the new stadium and I’ve never been,” said Minshull.

Lee Minshull puts in a cross for Ramsgate in an Isthmian Premier match against Horsham.
Lee Minshull puts in a cross for Ramsgate in an Isthmian Premier match against Horsham.

“Something’s come up with work, so I don’t think I can go, but I’ll be watching on the telly, that’s for sure. It’s a great draw for Ramsgate, isn’t it?

“It’ll be a tough game but you never know. For Ramsgate to go a goal down against Woking and turn it around, it shows anything is possible if you stay in the game.

“If it’s just one goal in it, you can really have a go towards the end.

“This time they’re away but it looks like a good stadium and it’ll be a great trip for everyone and one they could win.

“I still keep an eye on Ramsgate and speak to people there. I’ll be surprised if they don’t get promoted this year.

“Interestingly, I remember we played at Wimbledon on the first day in the Isthmian Prem (2007/08) and lost 2-0.

“I think there were about 3,000 people there and we were all like, ‘this is unreal’, so it’s funny to think I ended up playing there.”

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Minshull, originally from Medway, was studying at Canterbury Christchurch University and playing Sunday League football for Dolphin Sports when the chance to join Ramsgate came up.

He spent time in the reserves before scoring his first senior goal in a thrilling 3-3 draw at home to Tonbridge in January 2006.

Ramsgate won the old Isthmian Division 1 title under Jim Ward that year and Minshull flourished over the next two seasons, culminating in League Cup glory and a play-off semi-final in 2008.

Rams missed out to a Staines team who were beaten by - you guessed it - AFC Wimbledon in the final.

“Sometimes it’s about timing and I think I just needed to get my love back for football,” said Minshull.

“I bumped into a friend who was playing for Kent and he was (ex-Rams chairman) Richard Lawson’s stepson and so they used to watch me and had a bit of an eye on me.

Lee Minshull in action for Ramsgate during an Isthmian Premier match against Folkestone.
Lee Minshull in action for Ramsgate during an Isthmian Premier match against Folkestone.

“Eventually I went in and started playing for the reserves and stuff like that.

“I started enjoying my football, playing with some good people, and once I got my love back for it, it was maybe I can play for Ramsgate’s first team.

“After that, it was maybe I can improve again.

“I played a bit part in the season we got promoted into the Ryman Prem but I think it really started kicking off that pre-season and I got in the team.

“Mark Munday, I took his place but he was such a good role model for me.

“He kept saying to me if you keep working as hard as you are and keep playing as well as you are, there’ll be clubs looking at you, and I didn’t really think about it at the time.

“Those few years got me back in people’s minds and opened some doors for other clubs to start looking at me.

“I was a young adult and the people I played with really supported me.

“I went through a difficult personal situation at that time when my mum passed away so a lot of people at Ramsgate looked after me and I grew up with them.

“Playing in that team we had some proper men and some real good characters who were local to Ramsgate and really cared about the football club, and I think anyone who wasn’t from that area had to step into that, so there was a real family feel.

“I think that got me back into it and then we had some success but unfortunately times move on and I moved on after a few years but it played a massive part in the career I went on to have.”

Minshull enjoyed a prolific spell at Tonbridge, where Tommy Warrilow helped take his game to the next level.

It was then that AFC Wimbledon came calling, with boss Terry Brown offering full-time football.

There were injury setbacks during his time with the Dons but he featured in one of the greatest days in their history when they beat Luton on penalties in the Conference play-off final at the City of Manchester Stadium.

“It was a funny one because it wasn’t like they had loads of money or were massively bigger than anyone else or buying their way to success, but when they got to the Conference it became a lot tougher to compete at that level,” said Minshull.

“The year I signed was the first year they went full-time and they took a lot of players from the lower leagues who were keen to prove themselves and had done well in those respective leagues.

Lee Minshull (No.8) helped Newport reach the Football League after leaving AFC Wimbledon. Picture: Andy Payton
Lee Minshull (No.8) helped Newport reach the Football League after leaving AFC Wimbledon. Picture: Andy Payton

“While we might not have been the richest club, the club did everything right in terms of the training, the support we got from physios, sports scientists, and the hotels we used to stay in.

“A lot of people at the club were potentially involved with Wimbledon when they were in the Premier League and they knew how to do things right so we got treated really well.

“We felt like full-time footballers and we all worked hard to go up via the play-offs that year.

“We were massively the underdogs against Luton.

“We actually didn’t score a goal against them the whole season.

“We lost 3-0 away and drew 0-0 at home, then drew 0-0 in the final and won on penalties.

“Danny Kedwell scored the winner, who’s another Kent boy, and it was just incredible to think we managed to go on that run and get up into the league considering a lot of us had been in the lower leagues.

“It was an amazing time for the football club. We actually lost our first game back in the Football League, 3-2 to Bristol Rovers, but I came on with 20 minutes left, so what was my Football League debut.”

Minshull went on to play in two Wembley finals with Newport - finishing runner-up in the FA Trophy while on loan from Wimbledon and winning the Conference play-offs a year later, sealing another spell in the Football League.

He played for Bromley before a knee injury while at Concord led to his retirement in 2020, aged 34.

Minshull has also been assistant manager at Concord and Aveley.

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