Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Aldershot Phoenix

After sixteen years Aldershot are back in the football league.

When I was a young boy I was Aldershot's mascot. My father was secretary of the supporter's club (probably because he was the only one who could read and write). I remember the old days of the third division south. Before I was ten I had travelled to away matches on the team coach to such far away exotic places as Northampton, Walsall, Leyton Orient, Exeter, Watford, Swindon, Brentford and Reading. I remember particularly one wonderful winter afternoon at Leyton. Before then, I had always thought football was played on grass; I hadn't realised that you could also play it on mud. In those days we had a centre forward called Charlie Mortimore. He also played for the England amateur team and he was very good (his brother John went on the play for and manage Chelsea). On that muddy pitch Charlie scored five as we beat them 7-2. The other two were score by Hassal, the left winger, but all the goals were made by the little right winger Ronnie Hobbs.

In those days Stanley Matthews was the idol of all English footballers. The Blackpool winger was known as the wizard of the dribble. I suppose he was like Cristiano Ronaldo without the height, the good looks, the speed or the showboating. The 1953 Blackpool v Bolton cup final was known as Matthews final. Blackpool won 4-3 and my father was there. I went to the 1954 final which should have been Finney's final, but Tom Finney's Preston North End were beaten by West Brom.

Anyway, I think Ronnie Hobbs modelled himself on Stanley Matthews and that Saturday at Leyton it certainly paid off.

The team I remember was Ron Reynolds in goal Alf Rogers and Tom Jefferson were the fullbacks. The half backs were were White, Billington and Cropley and the forwards were Hobbs and Hassal on the wings, Laird and Menzies as inside forwards and Charlie Mortimore as centre forward.

There were many other memories: a goal in 8 seconds against Hartlepool (winning that one 8-1) and a tremendous cup tie against Stoke that went to a replay. Over 15,000 were crammed into the Rec for that match. I climbed a tree to be able to see anything at all.

Sixteen years ago for the want of £100,000, the club went into liquidation and were expelled from the football league after 69 years. The club reformed, now Aldershot Town FC, and began life 5 divisions below the football league. They have had a successful non-league career, and yesterday evening by drawing with Exeter away they were crowned champions of the Conference and next season will be a League 2 club (the new name for the old Fourth Division).

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