I’m looking forward to our games against Aldershot next season. Close enough away for a decent regional rivalry to flourish with decent numbers of travelling support ensuring a great atmosphere at both the Rec and Kingsmeadow, but far enough away that neither club really considers it a derby – therefore a defeat either way shouldn’t dampen the mutual respect that has built up over the last few years. As Dons fans we have been walking in Aldershots footsteps over the last few years, and only caught up as quickly as we did thanks to the Shots allowing our future manager to learn important lessons about the Conference and turning a club full-time.
While the Shots fans reaction to TB will be warm and welcoming, the current Aldershot manager doesn’t quite get the same treatment from the Dons fans… But even employing Deano hasn’t generated any bad will from the Dons faithful towards the Shots, we’ll have to manufacture some kind of beef with them for fear the two encounters will evolve into full on love-fests. Six all important league points should be enough, as we take on Aldershot as equals for the first time in our current incarnations…
The fact that, like Accrington, I’ve had to dig the word ‘incarnation’ out of the thesaurus suggests what bonds us as supporters is a shared traumatic experience…
On 20th March 1992 Aldershot FC played their final game, a 0-2 defeat at Cardiff. Five days later the club went out of business, the first time a member of the Football League had resigned mid-season since Accrington Stanley. Unlike the Dons two-day revolution, the people of Aldershot must have endured the longest summer imaginable waiting for reformed Aldershot Town to take the field in what then would have been known as the Diadora Football League Division Three.
Unlike the Dons Aldershot won their division at first attempt, securing promotion from Division Two a year later, before hitting the buffers… While Dons fans might look back and wonder how we kept our sanity during the four years we spent in the Isthmian, spare a thought for Shots fans who spent in total eleven years trying to escape.
The man who achieved promotion was our very own Terry Brown. TB took over on March 20th 2002, and set about building a squad to escape the division, which they did at Browns first attempt. Its worth remembering that Aldershot’s five years in the Ryman Premier were in an era when only the champions were promoted, no playoff second chances. The flip side was promotion meant elevation to the Conference, a year ahead of regionalisation.
The experience Brown picked up in his Conference years undoubtedly served him well while steering the Dons to the Football League, but its worth remembering how different history might have been had he guided Aldershot to promotion, his near misses including coming within a penalty shootout of a place in the League in their first season, losing 0-3 to Shrewsbury. After the club stepped up to fully professional status, Brown’s Shots came within second of a place in another playoff final in 2005, eventually conceding and losing their shootout once more, this time at the hands of Carlisle (I’m now starting to understand why TB felt he was owed a penalty win!…).
Yet Brown couldn’t finish the job, and a couple of seasons in mid-table saw him depart, and Gary Waddock eventually replaced him. Waddock achieved the title at first attempt, and during the summer of 2008 the town of Aldershot had a League team once more. Waddock guided the Shots to a comfortable mid-table finish in their first season in League Two, following his departure to Wycombe in October ’09 his replacement Kevin Dillon almost went one step further steering the club to the League Two playoffs,l defeated 0-3 by Rotherham over two legs.
Building on the previous seasons excellent finish eventually proved too much for the Shots, who eventually finished 14th. The Shots midtable form took a nosedive from October onwards sending them plunging down the table, which also saw them crash out of the FA Cup at the hands of Dover. Pressure on Dillon and his management team grew to the point a home defeat to Oxford on 8th January proved to be the final straw.
Holdsworth was appointed two days later, following an encouraging start to the season at Newport, and immediately stopped the losing rot. Aldershot became hard to beat under their new manager losing only four more league games, including two in April by which point a midtable position had been achieved, and Holdsworth will go into his first full season in charge looking for similar form to challenge for a playoff place.
Aldershot now find themselves more or less where they were just before financial problems hit in the early nineties, a fourth level club with occasional forays into the Third tier. Most Shots fans would be hoping that’s where Holdsworth is going to take them, and it’ll be interesting to see what effect a succesful campaign and promotion would have on crowds that averaged around the 2,500 mark last season.
A classic old ground with a twist. Aldershot’s East Bank dominates the ground, a real throwback to the days when every ground had a big popular terrace. The barrel roof on this terrace, coupled with the close proximity of supporters, allows a fantastic atmosphere to be created. The East Bank is segregated, with visiting supporters taking the southern corner giving a visiting capacity of 1,100, including 200 seats in the adjacent South Stand.
At the opposite end of the ground there is no accommodation for supporters, just a path. I remember a visit to the ground in their non-League days when fans used to stand in this area, presumably now the ground hosts Football League games and is a designated stadium this is no longer possible. The netting behind the goal now hosts advertising banners but beyond that the view is of trees in the park behind, which makes the ground look more endearing.
The South stand, flanked by areas of terrace in the corner, is propped up against the railway line. Its only when you walk under you realise how little space there is on this side of the ground. Opposite stands the Main Stand, much larger but the flanks aren’t seated, instead there are small areas of terracing.
Aldershot do not appear to offer concessionary pricing to the unemployed, but understandably do offer to Military personnel.
(Dons price in brackets for comparison)
Terrace – Adult £17 (£15), Concession £13 (£9), U16 £6 (£2)
Seats – Adult £19 (£19/17), Concession £15 (£11.£10), U16 £8 (£7/£6)
Aldershot also offer a variety of family tickets, available in advance, that cut the cost for buying and adult and up to two child seats. Although Wimbledon do not regularly offer such an incentive it’s worth remembering the Dons U16 prices are already set to encourage younger fans.
These prices appear to have been frozen from last season, although their website isn’t entirely clear… as the idea is this post will be republished and updated closer to the date of our fixtures with Aldershot, this will be
The only meeting between the two clubs in our current respective guises was the FA Trophy 1st Round tie on 16th December 2006, which the Dons won 2-1.
All Time Wimbledon/Aldershot Meetings –
The Dons and Aldershot met during the early years of WFC league membership, as well as three successive League Cup meetings in 79, 80 and 81, the Dons winning the first two with Aldershot taking the final two-legged tie.