25 years ago this evening, over 400 people filed into the Royal Aldershot Officers Club for a second time, to be met with excellent news on the fortunes of the company formally known as Aldershot Town Football Club (1992) Ltd.
Four days previously, on 12 June, the Club had held its first ever Board meeting, attended by its two Directors, Graham Brookland and Chairman Terry Owens. In their absence, David Brookland was appointed Honorary Financial Advisor, with Peter Bridgeman as Company Secretary.
Now, The Shots had something even more concrete to reveal, in the shape of acceptance to enter Diadora Isthmian League Division Three for the 1992-93 season.
“We’re pleased to have Aldershot Town in the Diadora League,” said League Chairman Alan Turvey, “and if we can help re-establish them as a top football club over the next few years then that will be super”.
Owens had also applied to the Beazer Homes League, but even though his initial application to the Isthmian League had been to enter Division One, The Shots still became the first club to ever be allowed entry without qualifying through feeder leagues.
The Military Stadium was briefly considered as a possible alternative, but Owens saw The Recreation Ground as the only feasible option for a successful launch, even though Farnham Town had already made their own bid to move in as sole tenant, and then on a temporary groundsharing basis.
Soon, Rushmoor agreed to a three-year lease for ATFC at a rate of £7000 per annum, with the keys to be handed over on Friday 19 June. Matchday admission would be £3.50 for adults, with season tickets priced at £60 to watch the boys in “red shirts with blue numbers, collars and cuffs, white shorts with red flash, blue socks with white band”, as the first kit was described.
A setback had come when first-team manager-elect Ian McDonald – Caretaker Manager of the defunct 1926 club – was appointed Millwall’s Reserve Team coach in mid May, but former Shots defender Steve Wignall now took the top job, having initially been earmarked as the team’s physiotherapist.
A modest footnote in the Aldershot News & Mail advertised the need for “players of senior standard” to join the Club. “It will be very hard and success will not happen overnight,” warned the new gaffer, who soon signed his first player, defender Chris Tomlinson, who had also appeared in the old club’s final league fixture at Ninian Park.
Then, on 16 June, came the landmark meeting. Actor Arthur English was appointed Club President, with Bill Warren Vice-President. The first Board of Directors would comprise Karl Prentice, Malcolm Grant, David Hunt, Peter Bloomfield and John McGinty, alongside Chairman Owens and Supporters Club representative Brookland.
The new Club badge was introduced for the very first time, featuring a phoenix rising from the flames and designed by experienced artist English over eight drafts across a two-week period. “The badge ended up as a combination of the original phoenix and a pub sign,” he admitted.
With a target of £50,000, fundraising was already well underway. Owens revealed that 20,000 club shares had been purchased in principle – partly through questionnaires distributed in the News & Mail – along with 12 matchball sponsorships, 24 Patrons memberships and 71 enquiries on shirt sponsorship. “All this support is great, and we still haven’t got a team yet,” joked Owens.
Election to Division Three, however, proved problematic to manager Wignall, who had sealed provisional agreements with many players in the expectation that The Shots would be playing in Division One, and now had to start again. With just seven days until the start of pre-season training, he returned from holiday to begin the job in earnest.
“It will take a while to get things together, because I am starting from scratch,” conceded Wignall. “But I know that this Club can be a success.”
Aldershot News & Mail, 19 June 1992
Excerpt of official minutes from the public meeting held at the Royal Aldershot Officers Club on Tuesday 16 June 1992 (with thanks to Pete Stanford)
Letter from Supporters Club Secretary Nick Fryer to the Aldershot News and Mail, May 1992
Minutes from the first ever Aldershot Town FC board meeting, held on 12 June 1992