The 35-year-old, the Galashiels club’s longest-serving player intends to carry on playing football but isn’t sure where that will be yet, having a few expressions of interest in his services to consider.
Aitchison says he’s sad to be leaving the Galashiels club, having been there since January 2014, just a few months after its revival via a merger of Gala Fairydean and Gala Rovers to become one of the founding members of the Scottish Lowland Football League, but feels the time is right to move on.
“It feels a bit strange, to be honest with you,” he said. “It’s probably been, in sport, one of the toughest decisions I’ve had to make.
“I think it was the right decision but I have to say I feel a bit gutted that I’ll not be there next season.
“Obviously my Saturdays will be different from now on, which will be strange, but sometimes a new start isn’t a bad thing.
“It’s just time to move on, so that’s why I’ve made the decision to part ways with the club, although it is hard as I think it will always be my club in some respects.
“It’s a bit of everything really. I’ve been playing football a long time and now I’ve got a two-year-old boy and I want to be a bit closer to home. I’ve travelled there for eight years and I live about an hour away, so every Tuesday, Thursday and even a Saturday as I don’t have any home games – every game’s an away game – I’m travelling.
“We’ve got new management too, Neil Hastings having moved on, and sometimes it’s just right to start a new era, if that makes sense.
“It’s not that I didn’t think I’d be getting played or anything – it’s just timing, and I felt it was the right time to move on.
“I will continue to play, I think. There are some decent local teams that I definitely could lend my services to, for a couple of years anyway.
“I’m in talks with a few clubs at the moment but haven’t really decided yet, but the treatment I got at Gala will go into making my decision.
“It’ll be mostly about how the club feel, what the people are like and what the players are like. That’s the most important part to me. Money’s never really been an objective of mine.
“In all of the time I’ve been at Gala, I’ve been consistent about what I’ve asked for and I’ve never asked for a penny more because I really enjoy my football and I’d prefer them to spend money on bringing in better players.
“Whatever club I go to, it’ll be the club that feel the best.”
Looking back over his eight years at Netherdale, with a year-long interval at the old Eyemouth United while recovering from a toe injury he sustained in 2018, Aitchison, previously with Borders rivals Vale of Leithen, said: “You could see from the offset that they were quite a professional outfit in the way that they conducted themselves on and off the pitch.
“I’ll miss it. The boys are one thing, but when you’re at a club for so long, for eight years, you get to know all the back-room staff too, all the committee members, all the fans, and I’ll miss that.
“It’s like turning up to a family event in some respects. You get there on a Saturday and have a chat with everybody.
“They’ve looked after me in many ways. They’re just a great bunch of people – just normal, down-to-earth people, that’s the best way I can put it.”
That feeling is mutual, club chairman Ryan Cass adding: “We say goodbye to club legend and longest-serving player Ross Aitchison wishing him all the very best for the future.
“Ross has spent eight seasons at Netherdale and shown great loyalty and played a huge part in the club’s progression since being founded in 2013.
“Ross is everything you want in a player – he gives his all, he’s a winner, but, most importantly, he’s a fantastic person.
“It will be strange not having him around, but I’m sure we’ll see him back at Netherdale in some capacity in the near future.”
Prior to playing at Innerleithen and then Galashiels, Aitchison, a regional distribution manager for Calor Gas away from the pitch, was on the books of now-defunct home-town club Eyemouth United, from 2011 to 2012, as well as Edinburgh’s Civil Service Strollers and Midlothian’s Whitehill Welfare.
Rovers finished 13th in the 18-team league last year, with 37 points from 34 games. That was five places and 17 points worse off than Berwick Rangers but five positions and 32 points better than Vale of Leithen, now relegated to the East of Scotland Football League’s premier division.
As Aitchison heads out of the door at Netherdale and looks for a new club closer to his Berwickshire home, three new players have come in.
They are midfielder Danny Galbraith, striker Allan Smith and goalkeeper Ryan Goodfellow.
Former Manchester United youth player Galbraith, 31, is returning after a season at Bo’ness United, saying: “I’m looking forward to it, absolutely, yes.
“It’s coming full circle, so I’m looking forward, hopefully, to carrying on where we left off.”
Berwick-born Smith, 28, formerly a Gala Fairydean youth player, returns to Netherdale from Edinburgh’s Spartans, having previously turned out for the likes of Stenhousemuir, Forfar Athletic, Peterhead and Edinburgh City.
Goodfellow, 29, was last at Edinburgh City, and the Earlston-raised goalkeeper’s previous clubs include Dunfermline Athletic, East Fife and Albion Rovers.