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Ramsgate appoint Tony Russell as manager and Joe Vines as assistant after the pair spent three seasons with Lewes in the Isthmian Premier Division – Ben Smith departs after missing out on promotion

Ramsgate have unveiled their new management team following Ben Smith’s departure late last week.

The Rams have been quick to replace Smith, with Tony Russell taking over and Joe Vines in as his assistant.

Tony Russell has been unveiled as Ramsgate's new manager Picture: Ramsgate FC YouTube
Tony Russell has been unveiled as Ramsgate's new manager Picture: Ramsgate FC YouTube

Russell said he had four offers during the close season after they ended a three-year spell at Lewes following the 2023/24 campaign. It was Ramsgate who proved the most appealing.

“I feel fresh and I have some ideas I've been working on,” said Russell. “I am looking forward to implementing them at Ramsgate.

“We aren’t people that want to jump around from club to club, I don’t want to just bounce around. I want to stay somewhere and build and grow.

“When you look at Ramsgate from afar there was one thing that blew me away. A lot of people have got their perception wrong about them, they think everyone is getting big money. If it was about money, I would have gone somewhere else.

“The work they do for the community is outstanding. They are feeding families in the areas, providing underprivileged kids with laptops and teaching kids to even ride a bike, swimming lessons, hours and hours of free (football) sessions on the pitch. Even helicopter rides for kids!

“I am as excited about that part as I am the football and I said to (chairman) James (Lawson) that I want to be a part of that. I come from humble beginnings, a council estate in South London, that’s important to me. That drew me in more as much as everything else. I am delighted to be here and excited about it.”

Vines added: “It’s an exciting project, it’s a huge club. I have got some familiarity with the club having been down the road with the noisy neighbours at Margate as a player.

“I remember playing (at Ramsgate) in a Thanet Cup game some years ago and thankfully winning that. I’d like to be on the other side of a few of those derbies now.

“I think it is exciting when you look at the size and the scope of the youth section, the work in the community, and for us we are not looking to come in and just be football managers, we want to be part of a project. There is huge opportunity for growth here.”

Russell says they have already agreed on signing two new players, with others to follow, as they look to reshape the squad.

Describing how they want to play, Vines said: “We are a possession-based, passing team, we (like to) build a very exciting front-foot attacking side that can go out there and try and score lots of goals. We hope to replicate that here.

“With 1,500-2,000 people here every week we want to entertain people and we feel there is an opportunity to do that.”

One player the management team are reunited with is Joe Taylor. He scored 70 goals for Lewes over two seasons under Russell who previously had him at Cray Wanderers.

Vines said: “(We want to create) the right culture in the club, that team ethic. We are fortunate we have lovely facilities and a fantastic pitch, but we play away for half the matches so we have to fight on multiple fronts. We have to build a team that can face any foe on any terrain.”

Commenting on his predecessor, Russell added: “Ben and his team did some great stuff in the FA Cup and coming so close in the league, it was fantastic.

“I have watched a lot of games and I have a good knowledge of the players and one in particular (JT) I know more than most. I have been tapping into him, he knows me and my expectations and what I am going to bring, he tells me about the fanbase and how passionate they are. I feel I have good intel on the club, the players and the area.”

Vines added: “The good thing here is that there is already a great grounding, the previous management have done a great job of that and building a togetherness with the community. We hope to continue with that and progress it to the next level.”

Russell started out in management with Erith Town before enjoying back-to-back promotions at VCD Athletic, taking them into the Isthmian Premier Division for the first time. Another promotion followed at Cray Wanderers and they were challenging at the top during two disrupted seasons during the Covid pandemic.

During three years at Lewes, the management duo were credited with transforming the club’s fortunes and introducing an attacking style of play.

Joe Vines heads to Ramsgate as Tony Russell’s assistant manager Picture: Steve Terrell
Joe Vines heads to Ramsgate as Tony Russell’s assistant manager Picture: Steve Terrell

The pair led the Rooks to a seventh-place finish in their first season in the Isthmian Premier Division and sixth in the 2022/23 campaign, missing out on the play-offs on goal difference. Last season the Rooks progressed to the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup - the furthest the club had been in the competition in over a decade and were eighth in the table.

Smith’s departure from Ramsgate was announced on Friday, having narrowly missed out on promotion from Isthmian South East. In the FA Cup they had made it to the second round proper and a televised trip to AFC Wimbledon. He exit came just over a month after the club had confirmed he was staying for another challenge at promotion.

Smith said: “Ramsgate is an unbelievable club from top to bottom and it has been a pleasure to work alongside James, the directors and the army of volunteers and supporters who have given me and the players such incredible backing home and away, it was always valued and appreciated and won’t be forgotten.

“I was desperate to bring you all the promotion that the club is craving for and I am gutted that our season didn’t quite finish how we wanted which is something that will always haunt me.”

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