Westley move to Preston ‘justified’ - Hollis

Stevenage Supporters’ Association’s press officer Mark Hollis on Graham Westley’s stint at Boro

I’LL admit it – I never wanted Graham Westley back at Stevenage because I didn’t think he was up to it.

It goes to show what I know!

In fairness to me, however, his first stint at Broadhall Way was, by and large, a pretty awful affair.

Dreadful football, dreadful press relations and a dreadful relationship with the fans. I remember a good friend of mine owning a cut out of a local newspaper article, in which Westley had slated the fans, which he had pinned to his wall “just so we didn’t forget” he’d done it.

However, in among the gloom of Westley’s first tenure there was a glimmer of light in the shape of the 2005 Conference Play-Off final, but I’d imagine that even Graham himself would admit that we finished there more by luck than judgement.

On his much maligned return, Westley pledged that he was a changed man and he has spent the last three years proving that to be the case. Two FA Trophy finals (OK, so we lost one), a Conference title, a battering of Newcastle United, a League 2 play-off victory and League 1 comfort later, and I’m genuinely gutted to see him leave.

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Could we have achieved everything we have in the last three years under anybody else? Quite simply, absolutely not.

Westley’s knowledge of non-league football meant that, on his arrival, he brought in some unearthed gems and assembled them into a well-drilled machine.

Michael Bostwick surely could not have imagined that he’d be nominated as a League 1 Player of the Month just three years after being in a relegation fight at Ebbsfleet.

Also, could Mark Roberts, arguably Westley’s greatest signing, have imagined he’d have seen this amount of success in such a short time while he was marshalling the back line at Northwich Victoria? I seriously doubt it; but that, in my opinion, is Westley’s greatest talent.

Getting more out of a player than anyone else thought possible is something which he has done time and again, and it meant that he could find players who would go along with his regime.

I’d imagine footballers don’t like training 9-5. Westley, though, has put together a squad here that knows that long hours are best for them and know that it works.

The players who don’t like it don’t play for Westley – it’s as simple, and as ruthless, as that.

His methods may be unorthodox, but they get results and that is why he’s now moving on.

This does pose a worry though. When he arrived at Stevenage for his second spell Westley arrived at a club which allowed him to implement his own workings and he was employed by a chairman who knew him well enough to back his decisions.

Whether Preston North End chairman Peter Ridsdale is the type to allow that remains to be seen, but Westley is not stupid and he won’t have taken the job without assurances.

While I’m sad to see him go, I don’t blame him for taking his chance. His stock is as high now as it’s probably ever going to be and I think he is totally justified in moving on to what is, lets face it, a much bigger club than Stevenage.

He’s worked wonders here and a man with his ambition is always going to push for more. If Preston can give him the freedom to run things his way, then our loss will most certainly be their gain.

The success that Graham Westley brought to this club has been a long time coming and it’s been a joy and an honour to be a part of it. All the best Graham, and thanks for the memories.

Mark Hollis is Stevenage Supporters’ Association’s press officer.