On September 15 1989, John Aldridge was officially unveiled at Real Sociedad to become the Basque club’s first foreign player since the 1960s. This weekend, he returned to San Sebastián for the first time since his departure almost 25 years ago; he was given a warm welcome back by a community which remember his performances at the old Atocha stadium very well. Affectionately known by fans as “Mister Gol”, ‘Aldo’ opened his account with a brace against Barça at Camp Nou little over a month after his debut. He would go on to score 40 goals in all competitions in 75 outings with the ‘Txuri urdin’.
The former player, who is in the Basque Country to film a documentary about the difficulty many British players have encountered playing abroad, said: “It’s great to be back; everyone has been very polite and very endearing with me. It feels special to come back here; I’ve so many memories of the goals I scored with La Real and I’m really happy that after so long people still remember me,” Aldridge said. “San Sebastián has changed a lot since I was last here but in other ways it’s just the same – it’s still an extraordinary and magnificent city. Everyone’s been so friendly, it’s hard to put it into words how I feel”.
Aldridge said he was impressed by the Anoeta, where he was treated to an ovation from the stands at the half-time interval but hold special memories of the old Atocha ground which was demolished in 1994. “The new ground’s not the same, it’s a fantastic stadium and just like Atocha, it’s got something about it but the old Atocha stadium will always be special for me. It was a very English-style ground, quite antiquated and there was always a lot of pressure with the fans close to the pitch. I wish La Real the best – they will always occupy a place in my heart,” said Aldo, who is in San Sebastián until Tuesday.