It may be just the Third Division of the Diadora League, but there could well be as many as 1,000 people - instead of that level's usual gate of 100 or so - for Aldershot Town's opening league fixture against Clapton. The new club, founded in the close season, has an appropriate crest: a phoenix arising from flames. It owes its existence to the founder and chairman, Terry Owens, a 45-year-old Aldershot born-and-bred businessman.
'It was always my dream to become a director,' Owens said in the chairman's office - refitted after the ravages of the receiver - prior to Monday's friendly against Woking. For a brief spell eight years ago he was a director of the old club, but lost out in a share-control battle. After leaving the board Owens became involved in fund-raising in what became a vain quest to keep the club afloat.
The Football League may now be a long way away, but it is within Owens' sights. 'My target is the GM Vauxhall Conference within six years, the Football League within 10 - and no overdraft at the bank,' he said. With a three-year licence from the local council - who own the Rec - to use the ground, his club is being run as a sound, sensibly funded business, with significant supporters' ownership of shares. 'This is the people's club,' Owens said. 'We will do the business off the field, all we have to do is win games.'
Steve Wignall, the former Brentford and Colchester defender who was the old club's assistant manager, has that responsibility. He has returned to be the new club's first manager, and has worked hard to build a strong squad from scratch. His side should prosper in a division of modest playing standards - they had much the better of a 0-0 draw against Woking, who start their first Conference campaign at home to Stafford tomorrow.
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