Over the years, many football clubs with a proud history and tradition have found themselves staring into the abyss. Manchester City, Portsmouth FC, Luton Town, Leeds United, Southampton FC, Sheffield United, and in recent times Swindon Town. Many more have come close to extinction because of problems, financial or otherwise. Notts County in the mid-2000s were one such club, administration and near-liquidation on the verge of condemning the club to a long spell outside the football league and possibly out of existence.
Inspirational, hard-working, talismanic signings are needed to drag the club "kicking and screaming" out of the mire. Andy Morrison famously did so for Manchester City in 98/99, and for Notts, none were more determined and dogged, not to mention more "talismanic" (in a literal sense) than Richard "Ricky" Ravenhill.
Brought in by Ian McParland in May 2009, with Notts County having finished a second consecutive year in the bottom six of the Football League, Ravenhill, part of the Doncaster Rovers team that scaled from the Conference to League 1 in just two years, knew what it took to get out of the bottom division of English league football.
Born in 1981, the Doncastrian was part of the Leeds United academy, joining the club as a ten-year old. He then became part of Barnsley's youth team in 2000, and was a promising youth and reserve team player, before hometown club Doncaster Rovers snapped up the combative midfielder in early 2002.
His arrival at the then-Conference side was a precursor to the club's rapid rise up the league pyramid, as the South Yorkshire club ended up being the first club to go up into the Football League by virtue of the play-offs in 2003. Previously, the Conference only admitted the winner into what was then known as Division Three.
The following year, Ravenhill helped his team achieve back-to-back promotions, as Doncaster defied all expectations to win the title and propel his team to fixtures against the likes of Sheffield Wednesday and Bradford, regional giants which were playing in the Premiership not long before.
He also partook in Doncaster’s incredible 2005-06 League Cup run, beating Manchester City and Aston Villa before taking Arsenal all the way to penalties in the quarter-finals. In total, the midfielder clocked up 137 appearances for Donny.
By 2006, however, Ravenhill found first-team opportunities scarce and, after a brief loan at Chester City, was released, signing a one-year contract with Grimsby Town. In January 2007 he went on loan to Darlington, where he finally found his stride and, once the Shakers made the deal permanent in the summer, became a fan favourite.
In total, he made 88 appearances for Darlington, before financial issues meant the club had to allow him to leave on a free transfer.
Notts County, rebuilding the team following two disastrous seasons in the bottom tier of the Football League, signed the midfielder, "Charlie" McParland describing the deal as a "massive bonus for (Notts)".
He made his debut in the first game of the 09/10 season, playing part in a 5-0 drubbing of Bradford City at Meadow Lane. Throughout the course of the season, he became a fan favourite for his combative, full-blooded style of play, snapping away at opposition players, breaking up play and linking the defence and attack, while off the pitch, he would keep a calm, collective head in the face of the whirlwind events taking place at the Lane, often sharing his honest, erudite views with the local media.
Despite all the uncertainty regarding his position in the team - marquee signings were often rumoured to be in discussions with Notts - and, later in the season, the future of the club itself, Ravenhill's professionalism, heart-on-sleeve approach and determination led to him starting 40 of 46 league games as the team conquered League Two, winning 14 of their last 18 games to clinch the title.
Though he excelled in his role of midfield enforcer, not afraid to put his body and disciplinary record on the line for the good of the team, he also managed to get himself on the scoresheet several times in spectacular fashion.
He scored the opener against Macclesfield away in August 2009, an outstanding volley against Burton Albion four months later, in a performance described by then-caretaker boss Dave Kevan as worthy of "man-of-the-match" (despite Lee Hughes scoring a hat-trick in the same game) and another stunning strike in the home game against Morecambe in mid-April, during which he admits he was tired and "heavy-legged" following the birth of his second child two days prior.
A season fraught with uncertainty and drama, 2009/10 ended joyously for Notts, with Ravenhill overseeing a third career promotion and getting his hands on a second championship crown. The talisman had made it happen again.
The 2010/11 season, with Notts back in the third tier after a six-year absence, saw more of the same from Ravenhill, playing 24 league games and taking part in two classic FA Cup matches against eventual winners Manchester City, nearly beating the Premiership giants at Meadow Lane.
In September 2011, he was in the starting eleven against Italian giants Juventus for the first ever game at their new stadium, an unforgettable evening for both clubs.
Sadly, things took a turn for the worse for Ravenhill, as a collision with a Tranmere Rovers player left him sidelined with concussion, and in his absence, Gavin Mahon cemented his position in central midfield alongside Neal Bishop.
Ravenhill made only two more league starts for Notts, against Colchester United, two months after he was injured against Tranmere, and against Wycombe at Meadow Lane, but with his contract running out at the end of the season and manager Martin Allen not being able to guarantee him first-team football, the decision was made to let Ricky go on loan to Bradford City, where he impressed the Bantams so much they offered him a two-and-a-half-year contract.
The player enjoyed a bright spell at the Yorkshire club as they battled to the final of the 2013 League Cup against all odds, beating three Premier League sides among the way, and earning promotion to League One at the end of the season.
The twilight years of Ravenhill's career would subsequently take him to Northampton Town, Mansfield Town and Buxton FC, where he continues to play today.