Aldershot Town are hugely saddened to learn of the passing of the Club’s longest-standing supporter, Frank Burt, on Friday 5 February at the age of 102.
Frank had been ill for two weeks, during which time he celebrated his birthday on 22 January, and passed away peacefully, in the company of his family at his home in Ash Green.
Over 90 years of watching The Shots, his dedication to the Club never wavered, through promotions, relegations, liquidation, reformation and many famous names and games. From 1927 to 2016, The Recreation Ground was Frank’s second home and the Club his second family, and he epitomised the proud spirit of a club which has endured against the odds. His last Shots game was on Saturday 9 January, when he enjoyed a 3-1 victory against Chester.
His recall of matches, long forgotten by most, was astonishing, able to pin-point details at a distance of 70 or 80 years with an accuracy and sharp sense of humour which would have been a credit to supporters half his age. His humility was striking, and he received praise with a modesty which suggested that he couldn’t quite understand what the fuss was about. Yet he did everything he could to help the Club, including once offering his extensive but somewhat undulating back garden as a new training ground for the team!
Frank attended Aldershot Town’s first ever fixture, a 4-0 victory over Grays Thurrock in August 1927, and continued to attend as many home matches as possible, in later years watching from his own seat in the Directors’ Box. On his 100th birthday, Frank admitted: “I’ve been here a long time, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
Naturally, Frank vividly remembered that first visit to the Recreation Ground some 89 years ago, having cycled on an old, ladies bicycle from his home in Ash Green: “I paid four pence to go in. There were no stands in the ground, it was just white parapet walls. It looked as though it had been a chalk pit. There were four lime trees on the north side of the ground and on the other side of the ground there were railway sleepers. They had different trains then – they were steam trains!”
Like his father, Frank was also a keen cricketer in his youth, playing for Ash United’s second team, and he also took great interest in horse racing, but The Shots were always his first love. After outgrowing that bicycle, Frank travelled to away games riding pillion on his friend’s motorbike or in a charabanc packed with fellow Shots fans.
Those early days featured a great FA Cup run which included two of Frank’s favourite Shots matches, a 1-0 victory against second division Millwall and a superb Aldershot performance at first division Derby County in a game which was played in a blizzard.
During World War Two, Frank served at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough and continued to support a Shots team which regularly featured some of the finest players in the country, as internationals made guest appearances for the Club whilst stationed at the town’s Physical Training Corps.
Frank’s 100th birthday, in January 2014, was celebrated in the Club’s EBB Lounge with a party attended by many Shots legends, including Joe Jopling, Nikki Bull, Murray Brodie and Frank’s all-time favourite Shots player, Ben Herd. They were joined by community leaders including Sir Gerald Howarth MP; Cllr Terry Bridgeman, the Mayor of Rushmoor; Peter Moyle, Leader of Rushmoor Borough Council; Andrew Lloyd, CEO of Rushmoor Borough Council; Col Charlie Lambert, Commander of Aldershot Garrison; Barry Bright of the Football Association; Bruce Buck, Chairman of Chelsea FC, and members of the Kidderminster Harriers Supporters Trust, who presented Frank with a special half-and-half shirt.
As well as the customary telegram from Queen Elizabeth II, letters of congratulation were received from Prime Minster David Cameron, Prince William and Football Association Chairman Greg Dyke. Watch a montage of Frank’s 100th birthday, created by Kappadeano, here.
Asked that day why he had supported The Shots for so long, Frank simply replied: “They’re just my club”. Aldershot Town FC has never received a greater accolade, and it is doubtful if we will ever welcome a greater supporter into our midst.
A fan, sponsor and great friend of the Club, the Shots family has lost a dear grandfather, and the EBB Stadium won’t be the same without him. Forever in our hearts and memories, we thank Frank for his lifelong devotion to his football club. You are loved, and will be missed.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Frank’s family.
Please send your own memories and tributes to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will publish them in the coming days.