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The O’s and Shots

In the National League the contrasting seasons of Aldershot Town and Leyton Orient were enormous. Both teams I have always had a soft spot for.

My first ever football match I witnessed live was at The Recreation ground in Aldershot. As I badgered the old man to take me to his club, the one a few miles away in SE7 that he’d got out of the habit of watching, we happened to be at some friends one weekend in Camberley.

The Dad was an avid Aldershot watcher, and asked my Dad and I to accompany him, and I have vivid memories of the day. The opposition has always been a mystery to me, but I’m pretty sure it was Stockport County, themselves promoted yesterday and in a quirk of fate will replace the Shots in the National League.

The game ended 2-2 and we sat in a rickety old stand in a ground surrounded by trees as high as the floodlights, which cast massive shadows over the pitch. It remains one of the countries prettiest football ground settings.

After two excellent campaigns that both led to play-off finishes the Shots failed to make it back into league football. They appeared better equipped last season and should have made it up a year ago, but the cracks started to appear towards the end of the season as they crawled over the play-off line and were thrashed 7-1 at Fylde in the run in.

Aldershot started this season poorly and it was a slow painful slide to relegation. For their loyal supporters that have seen so much adversity, their immediate hopes of better times have been truly vanished and will play in the 6th tier for the first time in 16 years.

As for Leyton Orient, they were on their knees when they dropped out of the league two years ago following the unfathomably disastrous reign of Francesco Becchetti. After the club was stripped bare of cash, resources and affection it had to be rebuilt from top to bottom.

With the help and investment of Dunkin Donuts chairman and lifelong O’s fan Nigel Travers and Texan tech millionaire Kent Teague the O’s found a caring pair of hands to blow life back into this friendly east end club.

My first ever Charlton away game was at Brisbane Road. Think it was 0-0, but the memories of the day stick in my mind more than the result. Terrific little football ground is Brisbane Road with it’s iconic sign including the club badge with it’s two wyverns on the gabled roof to one side of a stand that runs down one side of the ground. Think the away end used to be opposite.

The O’s under Justin Edinburgh have had a terrific season and finally saw off the challenge of Salford, who have invested heavily, and the more surprising pursuit of Solihull Moors. A crowd 8,241 watched the O’s win the National League title yesterday, and I for one are very pleased for them.

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