A nervous time for all the top teams
Stevenage Boro boss Graham Westley s monthly column for The Comet It is that nervous time of the year. The time when some teams will stutter and fall away. And when others will take a deep breath and produce their best yet. That is the challenge for us at
Stevenage Boro boss Graham Westley's monthly column for The Comet
It is that nervous time of the year. The time when some teams will stutter and fall away. And when others will take a deep breath and produce their best yet.
That is the challenge for us at Stevenage Boro. We sit in fifth place in the league table needing to win at least six or seven of our final 10 games to make the play-offs for a second season.
After 32 league games, we still have it all to do.
The Nationwide Conference has become a high quality competition when compared to the old days of amateur football.
Gone are the days of part-time clubs. Gone are the days of unskilled coaches. The clubs are professional.
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Many benefit from infrastructures which have been developed over many years in the Football League. The likes of Exeter (over 4000 average attendance), York, Aldershot, Hereford and others have huge traditions and big support to rely on.
Stevenage is steadily building as a football club. Support has averaged more than 2000 at home this season. Which is a big improvement on the crowds which were being generated when I arrived three years ago.
The Academy has opened and the club's facilities are among the best in the league. The chairman has worked very hard to build up an infrastructure compatible with his ambition of League football.
On the field, results have changed. Relegation fears have been turned into promotion hopes and even expectations.
I think it is important to put a sense of perspective around what has been achieved on the field. Because the players deserve some credit for what they have done.
We often get given an image of being a big spending club. I think the facilities give off an impression of that. But we fight for players without being one of the biggest spenders.
There are many managers who crow that they do things on a shoestring. We aren't a shoestring club. And neither I might add are some of those that claim to be.
I have been staggered by wage deals offered by some so called 'paupers' to players that I have spoken to.
We fight for players alongside others in our geographical region; that includes Dagenham, Aldershot, Canvey, Cambridge, Gravesend, Woking and the like.
Players do have choices. Players leaving QPR, for instance, have several avenues down which to go. Unlike lads leaving, say, Cardiff; that gives the Herefords a big advantage........they have a big catchment.
So, as a mid spending club, much comes down to what our players do on the field of play. The heart and desire that they show in order to win points.
They have been given an unfair reputation which has heightened, in my opinion, their card count this season.
Many will have seen yellow cards dished out on television last Monday night for innocuous incidents.
We gained our second sending off against Hereford when Justin Gregory was dismissed for two yellow cards.
By a referee who I am told has sent off six opponent players of Hereford in 13 games in charge of their fixtures! Wow!
What we do to address this situation, I really don't know.
We have tried so many strategies. Persistence, I guess is the key.
What has happened amongst our players is that they have sensed the way in which people have made things tough for us. The myths about our wage levels. The negative reputation that we have been given.
And they have begun to develop the mindset that we have to expect everything to be against us.
They no longer expect any help. They know that they will only get what they unite for.
They know that they have to work harder than anybody else because of this. But it isn't scaring them. Or deterring them. In fact, I believe the opposite is happening. I believe they see that they have to win promotion to get the justice that they deserve.
When people talk drivel now it will inspire them. When decisions go against them it will steel them.
If our fans can learn to react in the same way as a unit with the lads then we will become even stronger.
Let's concentrate on ourselves. Let's support each other. Let's finally create the togetherness that completes the job we have started.
There are a possible 13 games. Let's make sure we play 13 games. And that we win the last one. We can. Let's.