Fans asked to be patient as it's early days

PUBLISHED: 12:30 21 August 2008 | UPDATED: 16:29 05 May 2010

Graham Westley's Monthly Column

Graham Westley's Monthly Column

They say that you should never go back. After three games which have produced just two goals and one point, I guess there will be some fans out there who may wish I hadn t gone back! If you know one, encourage a little patience, encourage a little faith!

Graham Westley

They say that you should never go back. After three games which have produced just two goals and one point, I guess there will be some fans out there who may wish I hadn't gone back! If you know one, encourage a little patience, encourage a little faith!

Personally, I am delighted to be back in the Boro hotseat. I was not one of those taken in by the unrealistic school of thought which saw us installed as promotion favourites by the bookies. I took it as a compliment to the club, the management, the players and myself. But I expected a difficult beginning as I got to know the players that I have inherited and as the squad and management began to learn about each other and I was under no illusions about the size of the task.

I always believed that our performance would build steadily as we sorted things out and became a true team. Anybody who has belonged to any team knows that things take time.

I always believed that any success that we achieve this season will be an incredible achievement by our club. You simply cannot change manager and playing squad three times in under a year and expect the path to be smooth. There will be problems that need sorting.

We have brought together a very young squad at Stevenage. The priority for us is to play an entertaining brand of football and to play the game in a manner which sets the highest of standards. We have set ourselves a vision of winning in the right way and we will work relentlessly to achieve that. Winning is the end goal; entertainment and spirit are the means.

That does not mean that we will never look to turn teams; playing the ball in behind defences is a good way of stretching the game and allowing the team more space in which to pass the ball.

And when you have players with the pace of Anthony Thomas and Mitchell Cole, you have to use the weapon of the space in behind.

Neither does that mean that we will not compete. We will compete hard...... and fair. I was surprised to learn that Liverpool's great Tommy Smith earned just one red card and two yellow cards in his career. Not bad for a 'hard man'! It shows how competitive men can fight hard within the rules of the game.

In these early days, our situation has not been helped by the absence of four non-league internationals; Steve Morison, Mitchell Cole, David Bridges and John Martin have missed most of our first three games; that is quite an array of talent to be without.

The return of these players to the squad alongside the evolution of the team will undoubtedly see things improve. I find it very difficult to be patient. My inner sense of hunger to win always encourages me to feel frustrated and angry about failure. Forcing myself to create an environment in which players can gain in confidence and improve rather than buckle under a weight of expectation is critical.

The beauty of 'going back' is that you know your way around the place much better. You know the strengths, the assets that you can harness.

For instance, I know how strong the chairman is in his mentality to achieve what he wants for the club. It is very powerful to have that influence within a club. To have the strongest vision and true drive at the helm is a motivation and an inspiration for us all. The chairman is relentless. He pursues improvement with infinite vigour. I thrive on that pressure.

Understanding the chairman and the board as I do is a very big advantage for me. There is no confusion or ambiguity. Going back means that we have already built our trust and we can work together with that solidity behind us.

One area in which I want to make some considerable strides forward is in the interaction between the playing squad and the fanbase; the interaction between the management team and the supporters. At present, I am working up a plan of action. I want to engage much more with the different levels of all the people who support us.

The beginning of this was a successful open day during pre-season in which fans were able to meet and chat with the entire squad, management and even the chairman. A fantastic afternoon.

As we go forwards, I want to ensure that there are activities at home and away that build bridges and build our bond as a club. For instance, I plan to arrange for one of the management or players to meet with our travelling coaches and give them a dressing-room insight before away games.

I plan to do a similar briefing at home games, giving 20 supporters the chance to apply to Mark Venables for a free ticket to attend a 1pm matchday briefing. Obviously there are details to be arranged but this type of measure is designed to bring us all closer together as we learn about each other and build.

If anybody has ideas about ways in which we can strengthen the bond at the club, please do write to me at the club and share your suggestion.

What I know from my previous time at Stevenage is that there is a phenomenal sense of ambition, passion and desire to succeed within the club. It permeates all levels of the club. Capitalising on that is the opportunity in front of me and I am working hard to make sure that I grab it with both hands.

Paul Fairclough came back to Stevenage after winning the Conference during his initial reign. We didn't manage to secure promotion in my first stint; the play-off final was as good as it got. It will not be easy to overcome clubs like Rushden, Oxford, Wrexham, Cambridge, Mansfield, Torquay and co with their Football League experience, infrastructure and resources. However, it is possible and it is within our power to climb the performance and promotion mountains.

A few slips on the low slopes have neither dented my enthusiasm or desire for the road ahead. You simply have to focus on the next step. Whatever has gone before is irrelevant. Your next step will only be a sound one if you focus. If you concentrate. If you believe. As our focus, concentration and belief intensifies, so our performance levels will rise. As our performance levels rise, so our chances of winning consistently will rise. As we win more consistently, so our chances of success change for the better.

I am already imagining the day when our young players get a grip on their confidences, understand the vision that is being shared with them and trust each other enough to free themselves up to play at their best. Every day, we press the buttons that we think will get them there soonest.

I think that we will all enjoy the times that follow the moment when the lights go fully on.

GW

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