Wednesday 16 April ~
In today's football, a debt of under £100,000 is not a great deal. In 1992, however, owing that amount was enough to put Aldershot FC out of business. They were bottom of the League at the time so the current punishment for administration – the ten point deduction – would have relegated them to the Conference. Instead, a new club formed out of the bankruptcy, Aldershot Town, restarted life in the Isthmian League Third Division. Last night at St James Park, Exeter, where Aldershot have not won for 53 years, they claimed the Blue Square Premier title in front of 898 travelling supporters. The climb back into League football was complete.
The old Aldershot FC had been a fairly prosperous lower league club for a couple of decades before their demise. The club's attendance record of 19,138 was set in 1970 for an FA Cup fourth round tie against Carlisle Utd, and they were the first ever winners of a play-off final, beating Wolves in the 1987 Fourth Division match, only to return to the bottom tier two years later. Soon after this they were “hopelessly insolvent” and faced being wound up in the High Court. Salvation seemed to have come, however, through a cheque for £200,000 presented by a 19-year-old public schoolboy and property developer called Spencer Trethewy. Unfortunately, Trethewy didn't really have the money, and on March 25, 1992 Aldershot FC officially went out of business. A short search reveals a large amount of Aldershot-based YouTube enthusiasts.
The badge of Aldershot Town features an image of a rising phoenix and next year the Recreation Ground will welcome Football League clubs once again. The progress up the non-League pyramid has been steady, with four seasons in the Isthmian First Division and five in the Premier. After getting into the Conference in 2003, Aldershot lost in the play-off final in their first season and went out in the semi-finals in their second. With last night's point at Exeter, themselves hoping for the play-offs, Aldershot took the 2007-08 title as well as the Setanta Shield.
Aldershot fans are understandably elated. Tribute was paid to non-league football: “We are like a teenager leaving the warm embrace of a very close family.” Many mentioned that a flagon of rum, donated by the landlord of the Spotted Dog in Clapton on Aldershot Town's formation and reserved for a League return, may now be broached. It could be that manager Gary Waddock took a fair few swigs given that he described Aldershot's promotion as his best moment since “winning the FA Cup with QPR”. Gary was in fact on the losing at Wembley against Spurs in 1982.