Ramsgate is one of the largest non-League clubs in Kent, and last season fielded 78 senior and youth teams, and for 2023/24 again includes 3 for women and 10 for girls as well as 2 senior men’s teams comprising the 1st Team and Under 23s. The club continues to grow and following the installation of the first fixed Panna cages at an English football stadium in 2020 replaced the pitch at Southwood with a new all-weather surface that was opened with a visit from Spurs’ U23s in July 2021. The current club restarted in 1945, after the ban on football in east Kent during World War 2 was lifted, and originally called Ramsgate Athletic have played at the Southwood Stadium continuously ever since.
Ramsgate has had senior football teams within the town since the late 1800s, and despite the paucity of newspaper coverage of football on the Channel side of the Isle of Thanet in the late 19th century there are reports of Ramsgate Athletic playing at Southwood along with the principal side, Ramsgate Town, who started about 1886 (and team photos of whom exist from 1898). At this time matches were played on several pitches around the town, including the Rams’ current home – Southwood. Football in east Kent closed down during the Great War and in 1919 the Southwood ground was provided for Ramsgate Town by Henry Weigall JP and Lady Rose Weigall, the club by then known as Ramsgate. In their first season they finished 3rd in the Kent FA League and reached the Kent Senior Cup final but lost to Northfleet at Maidstone 1-0 before a crowd of 10,000. In 1924 Ramsgate Town folded and Ramsgate Grenville moved to Southwood and, apart from the rise and fall of the more successful Dumpton-based Ramsgate (Press Wanderers) in the 1930s, Grenville became the senior Ramsgate side until another World War cancelled football.
Post-World War 2 honours have been many, especially in the late 1940s and through the 1950s, and again in the late 1960s and 1980s (and not forgetting the mid-2000s), Some say the ‘golden period’ was from 1954 to 1957, when former Scottish international Jimmy Blair was player/manager, and the Rams were back-to-back League Champions in 1955/56 and 1956/57, with a new attendance record being set in 1955/56 when 5,083 watched the derby against Margate. They also made Club history when they reached the 1st Round Proper of the FA for the first time in 1955, narrowly losing 5-3 at Watford (a record that stood for 50 years before reaching that round again). With the demise of the Kent FA League in 1959 the Club joined the Southern League, as well as the Thames & Medway Combination, and a new stand was erected on the southern side of the pitch. In 1971/72 the Club were promoted to the Southern League and changed its name to just Ramsgate, but after a decline in fortunes off the pitch the Club was relegated to Division 1 and then resigned from the League in 1976, with the 1st team taking the Reserves’ place in the new Kent League. In 1998/99 the Club was eligible for promotion back to the Southern League after winning the Kent Premier League championship and the Kent FA Senior Trophy, but decided the time was not right. This was followed with more silverware in 2000/01, winning the Kent Premier Division League Cup.
The 2004/05 season saw the Rams playing (and defeating) 4 sides from higher leagues pre-season, including old rivals Margate. In competitive football they made good progress in the FA Cup, winning at Kingstonian (2 leagues higher) before falling in the 2nd half to Dulwich Hamlet (1 league higher), whilst in the FA Vase they again reached the 3rd Round Proper. The best form was saved for the domestic season where the Rams again did the double winning both the Kent League Premier Cup and League Championship by a clear margin, and after extensive ground improvements entered Ryman 1 South in 2005. Summer 2005 saw the Rams start the new era with 2 more pieces of silverware, beating Herne Bay in the Kent League Challenge Shield and Margate in the Kent Messenger Challenge Cup. The Club reached the 1st Round Proper of the FA Cup, the only Step 4 club in the country to do so that season, equalling the Club record set 50 years earlier, but were defeated at Nuneaton. They won the League at their first attempt however, securing back-to-back promotions to the Ryman Premier Division for 2006/07. For most of their inaugural season in the Premier the Rams were settled in the ‘play-off spots’ and for several weeks in 2nd place, but the toll on the small squad was noticeable and they slipped to 9th place in the run-in. This meant another new record, as the Club had only managed to stay in the Southern League Premier for a single season in 1972. The 2007/08 season saw more club records being set, winning the Isthmian League Cup as well as reaching the play-offs for the Conference South. In 2008/09 an average performance dipped in the last months with relegation back to Division 1 South. Key players left to remain at the higher level, although a much younger local side avoided another drop in 2009/10 as some predicted.
Back in Division 1 the Rams usually finished around the play-offs until, after five managers in 14 months, they ended up in 21st place in 2013/14. This saw the return of Jim Ward for his 3rd spell in charge, and though the Rams were in 2nd place at Christmas the form dropped and they finished mid-table. A good start in 2016/17 didn’t last and with only 1 point from 3 games over Christmas coach Lloyd Blackman replaced ‘Wardie’ as manager. A 10-match unbeaten run saw a mid-table finish reprieve, with Blackman confirmed as gaffer for 2017/18. In 2018/19 there were changes in chairman and despite a good run in the FA Cup (ending at NLS Hemel Hempstead in the 3rd Qualifying Round) and an 8-game unbeaten run ending in October, Blackman stepped down and ex-Sittingbourne boss and former Rams’ captain Nick Davis took over. Indifferent results saw by ex-Herne Bay boss Jason Lillis appointed in October 2019, who in turn was replaced by Matt Longhurst in January 2020.
After 2 years in charge, 4 losses in a row saw Longhurst replaced by former Gills coach Steve Lovell in April 2022 for the last 4 games. Although a turn around in form saw the Rams just fail to return to the play-off places, they had been in for the first 8 months of the season, Lovell was retained for 2022/23, with the Rams topping the table or sitting in 2nd for the majority of the season until after Christmas. With a dip in form Lovell was released in March, and despite improved results and the Rams finishing as runners-up, disappointment in the play-offs resulted in a 15th season at Level 4 for 2023/24.
Ramsgate Post-World War 2 Senior Honours
Isthmian League Cup Winners – 2007/08
Isthmian League Division 1 Champions – 2005/06
Southern League – Southern Division Runners Up – 1971/72
Southern League Cup Finalists – 1967/68
FA Cup 1st Round Proper – 1955/56, 2005/06
Kent League Champions – 1949/50, 1955/56, 1956/57, 1998/99, 2004/05
Kent League Runners Up – 1996/97
Kent League Cup Winners – 1948/49, 1992/93, 1993/94, 1994/95, 2000/01, 2004/05
Kent League Cup Finalists – 1988/89
Thames & Medway Combination Cup Winners – 1959/60
Thames & Medway Eastern Division Champions – 1958/59, 1959/60, 1960/61
Kent Senior Cup Winners – 1963/64
Kent Senior Cup Finalists – 1947/48, 1957/58, 1966/67
Kent Senior Shield Winners – 1960/61, 1967/68, 1968/69
Kent Senior Shield Finalists – 1946/47, 1949/50
Kent Senior Trophy Winners – 1987/88, 1988/89, 1998/99
Kent League Charity Shield Winners – 1994, 1995, 1997, 2005
Kent League Charity Shield Runners Up – 1993, 2001