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Connor Wilkins pleased to be wanted by new Ramsgate boss Tony Russell having agreed move with former manager Ben Smith

Former Ramsgate manager Ben Smith set the wheels in motion for Connor Wilkins’ move to Southwood.

Wilkins was one of two summer signings announced by the Rams on Sunday.

New Ramsgate signing Connor Wilkins on the ball during Sheppey United’s FA Cup win over Billericay Town last season Picture: Marc Richards
New Ramsgate signing Connor Wilkins on the ball during Sheppey United’s FA Cup win over Billericay Town last season Picture: Marc Richards

He joins from local club Sheppey where he won both the players’ player and supporters’ player-of-the-year awards last season.

Wilkins had already struck a deal with Smith, so when he departed by mutual consent, it left the 25-year-old in limbo.

But new boss Tony Russell, who’s also signed defender Arthur Penney from old club Lewes, was soon in touch to say he wanted the transfer to go ahead.

“Originally I was going to be a Ben Smith signing,” said midfielder Wilkins.

“I’d agreed everything with him, I’d left Sheppey and then he called me one night to say he’d left by mutual consent.

“I didn’t know what was happening but then Tony called and we continued with the same deal and here we are.

“That’s football. It’s happened to me before where I’ve agreed a deal and the manager’s been sacked or left by mutual consent.

“Luckily, Tony still wanted me.

“Football’s a small world and everyone knows everyone in non-league.

“Tony said he’d spoken to a few people about me and he’d watched me a few times.

“Where I’d done well at Sheppey and got the two player-of-the-year awards, he said he’d done his research and other managers and players had spoken highly of me, so he wanted to continue with signing me.”

Ramsgate, Isthmian South East runners-up for the past two seasons, are looking to take the final step under Russell.

The style of football the new boss wants to implement suits Wilkins.

“Tony’s got ambitions not just to get promoted, he wants that title,” said Wilkins.

“I know his style of play and he’s a footballing man.

“He wants to keep the ball and that’s how I’ve been brought up.

“He’s told me about his attacking style of football.

“I feel like my attributes can help him out and the way he wants to play will bring the best out in me as well.”

Wilkins can play in a number of positions with Sheppey making use of his versatility last season.

But he’s set to take on his favoured central-midfield role as Russell plots a title challenge.

“I played right-back and centre-half and then the last 10 games of the season we had injuries and I played central-midfield, which is where I’ve grown up playing,” said Wilkins.

“Tony said to me he’s not going to be mucking around.

“It helps that I’m versatile but I’m going to be playing as a No.8 in central midfield, so I’ve set myself goals and targets and hopefully I can achieve those.

“It was a head-masher last season because on a Friday night I like to sit down and evaluate what I’m doing in tomorrow’s game.

“If I’m playing centre-half, I’m looking at the striker I’m up against; if I’m right-back, I’m looking at the winger.

“But I didn’t really know where I was going to be playing, whereas, this season with Tony, I do.”

Wilkins enjoyed his time at Sheppey, the highlight being their run to the FA Cup first round last season.

As a local lad, it was hard to say goodbye but it’s time to test himself elsewhere.

“I felt like I needed to leave Sheppey - I was there a bit too long,” said Wilkins.

“I’m an Island boy, my loyalties are with Sheppey, but I was there five years (punctuated by a short spell at Faversham) and it felt like the right time to move.

“I still live on the Island, so it was extra-hard to leave, and my mates and my family all came to watch.

“They’re still going to come to Ramsgate but it’s a bit far for my nans, which is why it was extra-hard, but I needed a change.

“In football you do need a change, so I’m glad we got that move over the line.”

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