Aldershot Town FC, who come from the North Hampshire town thirty seven miles south west of London, were formed in 1992 out of the ashes of the old Aldershot FC club.
The original club had been formed in 1926 and joined the Southern League the following year playing at the Recreation Ground. Six years later they won the title and were promoted into the Football League to replace Thames FC. The club spent their entire history in the bottom two divisions of the League with just a few promotions and relegation's to their name.
|The former badge of Aldershot FC|
Financial difficulties hit the club from the late 80's and on the 31st July 1990, Aldershot were wound up in the High Court as the Official Receiver condemned them as "financially insolvent" with debts of £495,000. This was lifted after nineteen year old Spencer Trethewy paid £200,000 to save the club and to allow them to retain their place in the League. However, it soon became clear that Trethewy didn't have the finances he claimed and was dismissed. In later years his shady dealings would catch up with him when he served a two year prison sentence for fraud and deception.
The club continued but more and more debts were accrued before they finally went out of business on the 25th March 1992 meaning all their results for that season were expunged.
Before long supporters had rallied and formed the new club Aldershot Town who were given a place in the Isthmian League Third Division the following season. They won the title in their first season and gained a further promotion. They had a few years wait before Town reached the Isthmian League Premier Division.
Terry Brown came in as boss and led the team to the Football Conference in 2003. 'The Shots' reached the play off final only to go down to Shrewsbury Town who returned to the Football League. They continued to perform at the top end of the table before Brown moved on to AFC Wimbledon while Gary Waddock replaced him. In his first season the team won the title and reached the Football League for the 2008-09 season.
Waddock moved on as did his successor Kevin Dillon before successful Newport County manager Dean Holdsworth took over the reigns in January 2011. Unfortunately Holdsworth's reign was not a good one and he departed in February 2013 with Andy Scott taking over. The team continued to struggle and were relegated back to the Conference at the end of the 2012-13 season.
Off the pitch was just as grim as the club battled for survival with chronic financial worries. Town entered administration a few days after relegation, before a consortium headed by former chairman Shahid Azeem took control.
Aldershot Town FC will compete in the Football Conference in the 2013-14 season.
Aldershot Town 1 Bradford City 0 (Tuesday 18th January 2011) Football League Two (att: 2,160)
It was early shift time for me at work so I scoured the fixtures for a new ground not too far away. I set off a bit earlier as I fancied a couple of pints pre match, but found myself on the 4.55 out of Waterloo and in Aldershot before 6pm.
I had checked out the location of the Recreation Ground before I set off, and was given a further clue as the train went right beside the ground before stopping at Aldershot station. Indeed, I could even see a bit of the pitch from the platform.
My next job was to find a pub. I'd read reviews of The Crimea Inn and that seemed to fit the bill being close to the ground and serving guest ales. After a bit of a wander trying to locate the said pub I was soon inside the warm and busy alehouse. I thought it was extremely busy even considering the upcoming match over the road, especially as no-one was wearing any obvious signs of being football fans. Most were in black and it quickly dawned on me what was going on. I'd entered a wake!
The only area free was near the roaring fire and my pint of sublime Hogsback TEA hit the spot, but I decided to bail out after the one. It just didn't seem right. Instead I wandered across the road and waited for the turnstiles to open.
I paid £17 to stand on the East Bank and set about taking some photos and generally finding my bearings.
The Recreation Ground really was like nowhere I'd been before. It was formerly in a public park and entry to all sections was from the High Road. To get inside the correct section of the ground you had to enter through a designated gate and receive a ticket to allow entry and the stand entrance. Inside, the near end was just a walkway with a control room and several high advertising banners to stop any stray shots leaving the ground.
On the right stood the seated South Stand over the middle third of the pitch, with open standing either side. The North Stand opposite had seats apart from a block at either end which was terracing. The far East Bank was a large standing area with what seemed like an absurd amount of empty segregation separating home and away fans.
The North Stand was built into a natural slope with a hotchpotch of facilities behind including a garden shed like club shop and catering vans. The main administration block with corporate facilities and the changing rooms were a separate brick building behind the stand which still adorned the name 'Aldershot Football Club'.
I walked back round under the South Stand where a steward welcomed me and opened the door into the Phoenix Bar. Every steward I came across all evening were welcoming and polite, which a lot of other clubs and their employees could do well to learn from. The bar had a section of seats and a large standing area with shelves and tables galore. Beer, and there was a chance of two real ales, albeit on smoothflow was served in glasses. It put the facilities though more plentiful at modern stadiums to shame.
After a couple of pints of Speckled Hen I took my place on the East Bank before kick off. As the teams came out the new Shots manager, Dean Holdsworth came and waved to the supporters. I popped out to try the catering. This was the one let down. The cheap quality of the burgers did not justify the price.
The East Bank was a throwback in terms of viewing. The rear section had an old barrel 'Belfast' roof with stanchions holding it up. The newer section at the front also had stanchions at the front of the stand. Choosing a clear view was not easy but with a smallish crowd and plentiful crush barriers, it was comfortable. The younger more vocal Shots fans created a good noise and they had a great selection of banners to match. Give me this any time instead of a numbered seat with a clear view, but a guaranteed cold the next day and little or no atmosphere.
The visiting Bantams started slowly, with the gigantic centre back Luke Oliver looking like an adult in a schoolboy game. The Shots were more direct aiming plenty of high balls into the area looking for nod downs, whereas Peter Taylor had got the Bradford team trying to play more football on the deck, with the emphasis on trying. In mitigation, the pitch was slippy after lots of rain in the days leading up to the game. It was like a snooker table compared to when I started going to games, but the pampered modern player expects more.
Town took the lead when a shot from Anthony Charles beat Jon McLaughlin at the near post while Jermaine McGlashan continued to cause mayhem on the wing. At half time I decided to try my chances elsewhere in the ground to aid my rapid getaway. The stewards didn't seem too worried and I entered the far block of the North Stand without question.
I was in a section with older Shots fans who'd seen it all before and whose main hobby was berating the 'lino' in front of them. The second half was scrappy with plentiful errors from both sides. When the gate was announced there was a roar of laughter around me. I don't think they agreed and I must say I wouldn't like to think where they'd have fitted another 4,000 fans to take the crowd up to the grounds capacity. Included in the figure were 128 hardy souls from West Yorkshire. They did announce that figure by the way. The game wasn't so dull that I counted!
I weighed up the options as the game continued. I could miss the last ten minutes and catch a train home or have to wait twenty minutes after the match for the next one. The game wasn't brilliant and the cold was biting so I made a move. A poor freezing steward opened the main gate and asked how long was left as he shivered.
I got the train in good time. I'd enjoyed my visit to a traditional ground even if the game wasn't the best. My evening was only spoilt by news of another Scarborough Athletic defeat, this time at Selby Town. Still, if The Shots could climb back, then so could my club.