‘I just love a good challenge’ - is this Wroxham player England’s dirtiest footballer – or the unluckiest?
Jackson Ramm couldn't have got off to a worst possible start.
Sent off on his debut as Wroxham were thumped 5-2 a home by Aveley. But little did the 22-year-old know then that things were going to keep getting worse – a lot worse – following his September switch from fellow non-league club King's Lynn Town.
As his new club got sucked into a Ryman League Division One North relegation battle – at the eighth tier of the English football system – Ramm picked up more red cards (3) from October 10 than they did wins (0) during the period before the start of his fourth suspension of the campaign kicked in on February 16.
The former Norwich City, Blackburn Rovers and Colchester United youngster, who has played for England Under-18s, has sat out a huge 12 matches as a result of the FA's totting up process for poor discipline. And having played just 11 times for the Yachtsmen, Ramm admits he's hated every single second of a campaign he has described as the worst of his life.
The pacy right-back said: 'All I'm guilty of is loving to put in a good challenge. It's what defenders do. The way football is changing, you're soon not going to be able to tackle at all.
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'I've been playing football since I was about five and got my first red card, for two yellows, when I made my debut for Blackburn reserves at the age of 16.
'I got one red at Cambridge City, for two yellows, and one red at Lynn for two yellows. I'm not a dirty or violent player. It's just strange. Everything else in my life is perfect right now – apart from football. It's been horrible.'
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The semi-professional player has also been punished financially after becoming the player to take the most early baths this season from the Premier League right down to Step Four of the non-league pyramid.
Fines and a loss of earnings from not being able to play for Wroxham have cost the one-time Manchester United trialist about £1,000.
'I suppose I have been a bit naive at times,' admits Ramm, who has been dismissed once more than Southampton bad-boy Victor Wanyama.
'I haven't thought before going in for a tackle that refs might know my name. I've just been treating each game like I normally would. There's nothing I can do about the red cards now. I'll still treat every match like a cup final, but I have learned from this.'
The Mattishall-based player's Yachtsmen bow on September 19 ended early after he was adjudged to have brought down Lee Prescott unfairly as his side's last man. Ramm got his next marching orders at Thamesmead for violent conduct – a charge he strongly disputed. Red card number three came at Maldon & Tiptree on November 3 while his fourth, also for two bookings, arrived on February 2 at Heybridge Swifts.
'I feel I've been more than a bit unlucky,' added Ramm, who sits out the last of his current four-game ban on Saturday.
'Against Aveley I won the ball but the ref decided I hadn't.
'At Thamesmead I got booted and only pulled the guy back but he fell on the floor holding his face. I got stitched up. I've never hit anyone in my life. I'm not that kind of person.
'I deserved to get sent off at Maldon as the first booking was dissent and the second was for a late tackle.
'At Heybridge, my first yellow was a meaty tackle that anyone would be proud of. But I soon forgot I was on a yellow and got booked again for a foul. So maybe, at most, I've deserved to be sent off twice.
'All I'm guilty of is loving to put in a good challenge. It's what defenders do. The way football is changing, you're soon not going to be able to tackle at all.'
Ramm, who will be eligible to play his second game under the management of the returning Damian Hilton at Barkingside next Saturday, added: 'I hate sitting on the bench, let alone watching games from the stands. But I've got myself into this situation and so have the team in terms of our relegation battle. I want to help us pull clear of trouble.'