In our club’s not-so-long story, the name Brian Aldridge is forever linked with a bit of a cock up; one that’s not even his fault. In fact, it’s a bit of a rum deal for the stopper who actually came in to do us a favour back in the day. And his mere presence in the team cost us a huge opportunity. But that permanent association is sadly a feature of football. Think Taibi. Or Klinsmann. Or Luis Suarez. So, we guess it falls on us to tell you what the story is, how did we get our fingers burnt? And who actually was the player we’re talking about here?
Brian Aldridge: Who Is He?
As a man, we can’t vouch for him as we’ve never met. As a player, however, he’s one for between the sticks; a goalkeeper hailing from the north Herts area – or maybe even from the other side of the county line. There’s only so much we can say for certain because it was a very different time in the late 1980s. No Wikipedia. No Soccerbase. Or anything in that sense. It all has to be pieced together from local newspapers.
And, when you’re looking at just one individual, it all starts to become a little creepy. No?
When did he sign and who from?
Just two-or-so months into the 1988-9 season, Boro’ were in a pickle. Mark Klimek quit the club after deciding that senior non-league football wasn’t for him. He agreed to stay on between the sticks until a replacement was found, which was Keith Allinson. But our new ‘keeper seemed to get injured at some point on debut. So, with an FA Cup clash at home to Burnham looming, we needed a new stopper to fill in.
Aldridge was that man. At the time, The Comet describes how he was “plucked from the relative obscurity of Baldock‘s reserves”. But it did the trick. And it meant our keeper woes were over…
Did he play often?
In our FA Cup Second Qualifying Round meeting, we faced a bit of a barrage against the Blues; dealing with an “agonising, seemingly never-ending, last 20 minutes as Beazer Homes League Burnham bombarded the Boro’ goal”. In the end, though, we hung on. Aldridge picked the ball out of his net twice (well, three times – but one goal was disallowed) as we won 3-2. And it saw us through to the next round in which Dulwich Hamlet were waiting.
Except, we never got that far.
It transpired that Aldridge hadn’t been signed far enough in advance for him to be eligible. As Boro’ chairman Ken Vale pointed out after an FA hearing, the goalkeeper was registered at his Vauxhall Opel League parent club. And that meant registrations could be made on the day of a match. For the FA Cup, however, seven days’ notice was required. And we didn’t get it. So, we were booted out. And the Blues went through to the next round.
From hero to villain in just a few days or so. And it wasn’t even his doing. It’s a cruel game.
But did he play often?
No, not really. In total, Aldridge turned out three times for Boro’. His second appearance saw us go out of the FA Vase at the first hurdle; Tilbury defeating us by a single goal. His third and final time between the sticks was a 2-2 draw in the league against Purfleet. In-between matches two and three for us, young stopper Lee Clarke came in and made his debut. But Clarke didn’t seem to make the grade, which brought Aldridge back into the team.
With Keith Allinson ruled out on medical advice, Klimek then returned for our Herts Senior Cup win against Tring in mid-October 1988. Then, it was the turn of Martin Westley to take up duties in the goalkeeping department for us.
Yet, it wasn’t the end of the conveyor belt of keepers that season.
Chris Hayes, Phil Dunn, and Lee Bozier would also do their bit for Boro’ in goal before the 1988-9 season was done. Eight goalkeepers in total were used that campaign. But none of them had the impact that Aldridge did. And, as we say, it’s no fault of his that we were booted out of the cup by virtue of his debut appearance. In the midst of such a full-blown goalkeeping crisis, it’s no shock that an admin error proved to be our undoing. Aldridge simply found himself at the centre of it.
Where is Brian Aldridge now?
Now, it’s 99% likely that Aldridge is retired. Unless he’s defying age and the accepted norms, the curtain will have come down on his career some time ago. But we’d have to go into full research mode with the history of Baldock Town players to learn more. And we may as well call ourselves BaldockGuide if we did that. We can only assume, however, that Aldridge went back up the road. How long he remained at Norton Road and where his career took him next? We don’t know…