From the Terraces: Aldershot Town chairman's offer to replace stolen Harrogate Town flags is a fine gesture

Harrogate Town supporter Dave Worton’s weekly fan column.

Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 11:37 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 11:38 am
Harrogate Town supporters cheer on their team during Saturday's National League clash at Aldershot. Picture: Matt Kirkham

It all started quite innocently with a tweet from Jack Wilkinson, a Town supporter on the coach back from Aldershot.

‘Did anyone pick the flags up at today’s game? Both have gone missing.’

The two flags in question had last been seen when they were taken down from the back of the stand at the Recreation Ground on the final whistle, folded and left next to a steward.

Three hours later, the mystery was solved, as pictures of the missing items were displayed on the Twitter accounts of two Aldershot fans, one pinned on a dartboard and the other being held up by someone with an emoji-disguised face.

They’d been stolen whilst the Harrogate supporters were clapping the players off, and everyone had assumed that someone else had picked them up.

Polite requests for the flags to be returned were met with sarcasm and abuse, so a number of us, myself and my daughter Molly included, set about reporting the incident to the Hampshire club via various channels, asking them what they were going to do about it in the process.

Meanwhile, things were beginning to get heated online, with Boreham Wood and Brackley fans weighing in on Town supporters’ behalf.

One Town fan remarked that hopefully the two Aldershot fans would wake up regretting it in the morning, but a quick perusal of the offending Twitter accounts revealed that self-awareness and remorse may be two commodities in short supply.

We weren’t dealing with the sharpest tools in the box.

So it was, that I arrived home from work this evening.

“You’ve got an answer machine message from some football-related person,” my wife says as I enter the house.

“Who?” I ask.

“I don’t know, but he left his number and wants you to phone him back,” she replies.

It turns out to be the Aldershot chairman, Shahid Azeem.

I collect the dog and phone him on our regular route. The chairman that is, not the dog. There’s no answer, so I leave a message.

Half an hour later Shahid returns my call, on his way back from the Houses of Parliament in Central London, while I’m stood in a muddy field.

He’s very apologetic and extremely hacked off with the whole incident.

I try to play it all down, after all it’s only flags, no one’s been hurt and I don’t feel he should have to take the flak for a couple of idiots.

He tells me that the club will be paying for new flags to be made and I reply that, although it’s a really nice gesture and really appreciated, he shouldn’t have to.

We end up having a nice chat about football in general and he invites me to call him if I make it to Aldershot next year.

I tell him I don’t intend to because I’m hoping Town go up.

Later Garry Plant, Town’s Managing Director, copies me into an email he’s written to the Aldershot chairman, stating ‘the measure of any character is not the problem or adversity they face but rather the manner in which they deal with matters .May we take this opportunity to thank you for your stance and your refreshing approach’.

I couldn’t agree more.

So, what did those two Aldershot fans achieve exactly?

Aside from looking stupid for glorifying the theft of a banner belonging to a 14 year-old boy and a supporters’ club banner depicting two hands shaking in friendship, here were two people implicating themselves as suspects online at the same time.

They’ve now wasted the time of people at both Aldershot and Harrogate, time which could have been much better spent, and cost their own club money in the process.

I can only think they thought it was a good idea in the spur of the moment.

Let’s hope contact from the club or CCTV footage from inside the ground may finally give them real cause for remorse.

On the positive side I’ve learned that, despite the occasional appearance to the contrary, most people are basically good at heart.

Witness Town players Alex Bradley and Ryan Fallowfield offering to pay for a new flag for the young fan who’d lost his, and the Aldershot response.

Hopefully it’s bought the two clubs closer together, and I wish them and their chairman well for the rest of the season.

Yes, decent people outweigh the idiots, loud as they may be. It’s just a shame the decent people are left to put right the mess the idiots have created.

And the match? I listened to it online for the first time, tuning into Barry Parker on Radio York for the first half and the local Aldershot commentary for the second, a brilliant development made possible by the fact that the BBC are phasing out their AM channels.

And, while it sounded like we had the same problems of a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal, a fact rightly acknowledged by Simon Weaver after the match, we remain second in the National League. The title is Barrow’s to lose.

It’s worth taking a step back here, though, and listening to the thoughts of the BBC Surrey commentators.

Describing it as the best match of the season at the Recreation Ground, they didn’t want it to end, were very complimentary about the way Town played, and were extremely pleased with the point and the way the home team battled to hang on for it at the end.

Sometimes we can get too embroiled in the negatives and it takes others to point out the positives.

Fast forward to 9.55pm on Tuesday evening and Dover Athletic have just beaten league leaders Barrow 2-1.

An 88th-minute winner from our very own Michael Woods inflicts a first league defeat on the Cumbrians since October.

Hope springs eternal. Let’s hope the Bluebirds enjoy the long trip back.