Club History - Part 2 - 1997-to-2002

After an on/off saga, Londoner George Borg arrived at the Recreation Ground in September 1997 with an excellent managerial record.

He secured the services of assistant manager Stuart Cash to the ranks from his previous club Enfield, with whom he had secured the Isthmian Premier division title.

Although dropping down a level, it soon became apparent that Borg had the contacts and motivation to secure another promotion for the club.

There's Always A Story With George Borg In Charge

Upon his arrival, the Shots were just above mid-table, a considerable distance behind leaders Grays Athletic. That they won the Division One title by eleven points is a testament to the achievements of Borg, Cash and Paul Priddy, the club’s goalkeeping coach. Attendances continued to rise during this period and the final fixture at home to Berkhamsted Town attracted 4,289 people to the Rec; a remarkable statistic at that level as Borg's side won every home match after Christmas. All-time record goalscorer Mark Butler came on as a substitute in that match to a standing ovation as he made his 303rd and final appearance for the club, having netted 155 goals.

The close season saw Terry Owens step down as chairman to be replaced by Vice Chairman Karl Prentice. The first season in the Premier Division saw manager Borg recruit a number of experienced personnel including popular former league player Colin Fielder and 33-year-old striker Gary Abbott for a fee of £8000. The Londoner scored a club record 48 goals during the campaign and Aldershot's home tally of 53 goals was the highest in senior football throughout the country.

The club also collected its first trophies, winning a "double" of the League and Hampshire Cup within two days of each other in a special week. Boreham Wood were defeated 2-1 at Slough Town on Bank Holiday Monday in early May before a memorable evening at The Dell when a 1-0 victory was achieved over Basingstoke Town courtesy of a last minute header from Gary Abbott header in the county cup final despite playing most of the match with ten men following Neil Champion’s dismissal early in the first half.

The 1999-2000 season saw the Shots finish as runners-up to Dagenham and Redbridge, who won the league by an astonishing 24 points.
The best achievement of the season was an FA Cup first round replay victory at Hednesford Town that set up a first-ever fixture against a Football League side in the second round. The subsequent 2-0 defeat at Exeter City was overshadowed by the fact that there were too many spectators in the visiting enclosure as over 2,000 Shots fans made the visit to Devon. A 32-minute delay followed and the Devon club had to make an official apology to Aldershot Town officials at an FA enquiry.

Another Hampshire Senior Cup trophy was collected in devastating style as Andover were victims of a record 9-1 victory. Gary Abbott scored five goals and Mark Bentley, later of Southend United, netted a hat-trick.

In 2000-01, despite an unbeaten start of 11 matches, league form fell away remarkably around the Christmas period and, ironically, a Boxing Day defeat at Farnborough Town. In truth, the situation wasn't helped by the fact that the club had 13 matches postponed. Thirteen league matches were played in April and May and, in an historic ruling by the Isthmian League authorities, the final match of the season at home to Billericay Town was never played as it could not be arranged before the league deadline.

This season did, however, see Aldershot take on league opposition at The Rec for the first time since reforming. Brighton and Hove Albion visited for a first round tie in November and a record attendance of 7,500 witnessed the match that was also covered by BBC TV’s Match of the Day. Despite being held at bay for most of the first half, the Seagulls went on to win with ease by 6-2. It was, however, another sign of the progress that the club had made in such a short space of time.

In league action, though, the all-important top position was still eluding manager Borg and his coaching staff, which by now included Colin Fielder. With the supporters keen on an elevation to the (national) Conference, pressure was on the management to succeed in this department. Another fine start saw six victories recorded in the first seven matches during 2001-02 and hopes were high that the championship was a distinct possibility. However, a continuous run of disappointing defeats away from home saw the dream evaporate and it was only a matter of time before a management change was likely. An FA Cup run and first round encounter with Bristol Rovers probably delayed the inevitable. In front of over 5,000 at The Rec, the Shots secured a replay in a game they should have won at the death; indeed, they only exited the competition when Vitalijs Astafjevs' 87th minute goal saw the west country side progress.

After a festive campaign of frustration, the writing was on the wall for manager Borg and, after a period of over four years in charge that had certainly brought success, excitement and controversy to the club, his tenure finally ended in January 2002. Without any question, the Londoner would certainly have regretted some of his actions after leaving the club, but his record certainly stands up with the best during his spell in charge and he has, indeed, rekindled his managerial success firstly at Hornchurch and Braintree Town, who he led to the Ryman Isthmian League championship in 2005-06 and the Conference South play-offs the following season. He departed the Essex club in 2007.

Picture Gallery

Roy Young with the match ball with team mate Darren Brodrick after netting a hat-trick versus Croydon Athletic in the Guardian Insurance Cup in October 1997
Gary Abbott in familiar pose. A truly magnificent servant for the club after being signed by George Borg for £8000 in 1998. He scored 120 goals in 156 appearances
Shaun May, Dave Osgood, Andy Nunn and Mark Butler at a charity football match in aid of the Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice
Club founder Terry Owens stepped down as Chairman after the Isthmian Division One championship was secured in 1998. Pictured here at the celebration evening as the name of Aldershot returned to the Football League in April 2008
Physio Alan McCreanney was certainly a character
Goalkeeping coach Paul Priddy - a loyal servant
Popular winger Jimmy Sugrue in action in a pre season friendly versus Brighton and Hove Albion in 2001. Jimmy made 200 appearances for the club netting 44 goals in three spells, the first commencing in 1995
The 1997/98 season programme was called Calling The Shots and cost £1.20 for 44 pages. The cover was an aerial picture of the Rec. The introduction was from Company Secretary Graham Brookland with a two page piece keeping fans informed of all club activity. New manager George Borg's piece was From The Borg Room. Ian Read provided the Talk From The Terrace in his capacity as Director and Supporters Club Chairman. Some editions carried colour photos for the first time. The press coverage from Nick Fryer was called The Town Fryer. A new Half Time teaser was also introduced
The 2000/01 programme was named The Rec Roar and remained at £1.50 for 40 pages. Julie Beattie covered the Supporters Club section whilst Jack Rollin reflected on Aldershot players of the past. The Shots Hotline was the double page information on club activity and there was a wider commercial aspect to this publication. The Insider article got the fans talking about the news from within. Football In The Community officer Simon Pullen introduced the Waiting in the Wings article.The final publication versus Billericay Town is a collectors piece as the mathc was never played due to the Isthmian League not allowing an extension of the season after the initial postponement in the ultimate week of the campaign due to inclement weather
The size of the 1999/2000 programme was reduced as the price was kept at £1.50 for a 40 page product. The cover featured 44 covers of seasons covering Aldershot and Aldershot Town programmes. Chairman Karl Prentice provided the introduction whilst the manager's notes were called By George. The statistics were in the centre of the programme for the first time. Bob Green produced The Rub Of The Green covering the Isthmian Premier division. The only new articles were a One To One questions and answers with players plus a wider coverage of away match travel and information
The 2000/01 programme was named The Rec Roar and remained at £1.50 for 40 pages. Julie Beattie covered the Supporters Club section whilst Jack Rollin reflected on Aldershot players of the past. The Shots Hotline was the double page information on club activity and there was a wider commercial aspect to this publication. The Insider article got the fans talking about the news from within. Football In The Community officer Simon Pullen introduced the Waiting in the Wings article.The final publication versus Billericay Town is a collectors piece as the mathc was never played due to the Isthmian League not allowing an extension of the season after the initial postponement in the ultimate week of the campaign due to inclement weather
The 2001/02 programme was a 36 page edition costing £1.50. There was a different front cover and an index on the inside page. The manager's notes were called GB- By George and there was coverage of the league called The Ryman Record. There was a piece from Tony Sharp and a regular article covering Chelsea Reserves who were playing at the Rec. For the first time too player pictures were provided for visiting teams.Guy Butchers provided This Guy Heard A Funny Story and there was a two page commercial article.
Celebration time as the club wins the Isthmian Division One title. Over 4000 atended the final match of the 1997/98 season when the championship trophy was presented versus Berkhamsted Town
Ian Hathaway was a stylish winger who served up plenty of goals for striker Gary Abbott.
Another Abbo goal in March 2000 at Hitchin Town. During this period Gary set an Isthmian League record of netting in 11 successive matches.
More celebrations at the Rec with George and the boys in 1998 as the Isthmian Division One title is securedwith 10 successive home wins in the second part of the season
More fan shots as its party time in May 1998
1997/98 saw a third promotion for the club in its six year infancy. A cause for celebration
Players celebrate with th eEast Bank after Staines Town are defeated 2-0 at the Rec to secure promotion in April 1998 in front of 3410 spectators
The Hampshire Senior Cup Final victory v Basingstoke Town at The Dell in May 1999 was one of the epic nights of the new club who brought a huge following of fans
The Chairman gets a soaking in 1998 as the party begins
Isthmian League Chairman Alan Turvey played a key role in accepting the club into the league in 1992. Pictured here with the Division One championship in May 1998
Colin Fielder lifts the Isthmian League Cup in 1999; the first cup success for the new Aldershot Town
Abbo nets one of his two goals in the 2-1 Isthmian League Cup Final victory versus Boreham Wood in May 1999
Celebrating in that League Cup Final with Ian Hathaway
Abbo smiling
Abbo at The Dell with former Shots defender Steve Harris in close pursuit at the 1999 Hampshire Senior Cup Final
Gary Abbott's 90th minute winner sparked an outcry of joy and disbelief after Aldershot played an hour of the Hampshire Senior Cup Final with 10 men
More scenes of joy at The Dell
Stuart Cash meets with young fans prior to the 1999 Isthmian League Cup Final
Ollie Adedeji lifts the Hampshire Senior Cup in 2000 after a 9-1 victory versus Andover
Lee Protheroe celebrates after a trademark free kick
This young lad watches on as part of a huge 6870 attendance at the Rec versus Woking in the FA Cup Fourth qualifying round in October 1998. The attendance was the highest outside the Football League that season and also the record attendance at that stage of the competition.
Captain Ryan Kirby with three mascots at the Isthmian Premier division match versus old rivals Billericay Town in September 2001
Shotsline League Table in 2001 as an Isthmian League side