Onwards and upwards for new Shots chairmanBy Jon Couch
March 07, 2013
SHAHID AZEEM spoke of his “huge honour” at taking over the chairmanship of Aldershot Town – and then predicted a bright future for the club, both on and off the field.
The award-winning British-Pakistani entrepreneur took over the role of chairman from Kris Machala at the EBB Stadium boardroom on Thursday after the Polish businessman opted to step down after two-and-a-half years at the helm.
Azeem, a former chairman of Woking FC, was given the unanimous vote of the board of directors to take over the reins having served as a non-executive director with the Shots since January 2011.
Flanked by the club’s new chief executive Andrew Mills and first-team manager Andy Scott, Azeem now leads them through a defining period of restructure, not least with the attraction of new investment being brought in to support the strategic aims.
But the new chairman is excited by the future in and out of the boardroom and said he was ready to pull out all the stops to ensure the club could realise its dream.
“It’s a huge honour and I’m delighted to be asked to take up the role,” he told the News & Mail in an exclusive interview.
“I remember watching Aldershot as a supporter in 1971-72, I think, standing on the High Street end in an evening game against Norwich with the fog coming down.
"Aldershot’s goalkeeper, Glen Johnson, came racing out of his six-yard box to take the ball from someone’s feet. He became my hero and I was hooked from there.
“Sport, and football, plays a big part in my life and this place gives me a real buzz. I’ve been here now for two years, it’s great to be involved and I’m so proud to be in this role.
“I want to make it clear, though, that this is not about me, it's about a board of directors working together for this club and giving it our very best shot to make sure we succeed.
“I take my hat off to Kris Machala for what he has done at this club. This club would not be around today if it wasn’t for Kris and I have a huge amount of time and respect for him.
"He’ll be staying as a major shareholder and board director and it’s great to still have him involved.”
First and foremost, however, Azeem must help oversee the club’s bid to climb away from their perilous position at the lower end of the League Two table, with the club’s precious Football League status hanging by the thinnest of threads.
The board’s response to a poor run of form starting in mid-January was to replace Dean Holdsworth with former Brentford and Rotherham boss Scott, and suddenly there is renewed belief around the EBB Stadium that survival can be achieved.
“It's most important for the club to stay in the Football League, we can’t afford to get relegated,” explained Azeem, who was once named one of the top 100 most influential Muslims in the UK and also Asian Entrepreneur of the Year in 2006-07.
“I think I can say for us all that we had huge respect for Dean but the club had to make changes and we, as a board, had to do everything we can to give the club the best possible chance.
“We’re now enjoying a honeymoon period which gives everyone a quick rush, I just hope now it gets us beyond the 50-point mark then we can sit down in the closed season and go through some ideas to see how we can move the club forward.”
But aside from the board of directors, the new manager and the players, Azeem believes it is the Aldershot Town fans who will ultimately make the biggest difference in keeping the club afloat.
“We need them to act as a 12th man,” he added. “We need all the support we can get right now and I’m begging supporters to come down to the EBB Stadium to support us and work together with us to help this club succeed.”