As regular readers of Ciderspace will be aware, this website has long recorded our utter disdain and total disregard for the 'achievements' of Stevenage Borough manager Graham Westley. We dislike his cheap sloganising ("Destiny will take over", "Attitude is more important than ability"), his methods and the way his teams play football, and after the disgraceful way he behaved the last time a team of his played against Yeovil we dislike his personal behaviour too. Indeed, when he was appointed manager at Broadhall Way it seemed as if he had found his natural home! What we didn't realise was quite how much he was despised by a lot of other football fans as well....
Ever year The Observer sunday newspaper runs a poll on it's sports pages to find the Sports Poisonality of the Year - an anti-hero of sport, the exact opposite of the Sports Personality of the Year polls more usually run at this time of the year; someone who makes a mockery of what sport is supposed to be about. It was widely assumed that this Christmas Charles Koppel, the much villified chairman of Wimbledon FC, or Franchise FC as they are more widely known, would be a shoe-in for the vote, and a suitably unworthy winner he would have been as well; but that didn't take into account the Westley-factor. The Observer's article, printed in last Sunday's paper, reads as follows:
Mr Poisonality 2003, with 89 per cent of a huge vote: Graham Westley.
The year in poison:
1) Quits Farnborough three days after switching the club's F.A. Cup tie to Highbury; they lost 5-1 but made £600,000.
2) Joins Stevenage, taking seven Farnborough players with him on frees.
3) Farnborough - which Westley tried to merge, move 25 miles away and rename FTFC (Fitness, Team, Form, Commitment) - were left with 13 players, a transfer embargo, a debt, and now face relegation. Any regrets? "I don't do regrets," says Westley. "I'm living in the future".
A football manager once observed that fans only remember the second half, such is the significance of the endgame rather than the overture. So it is when it comes to awards - voters are usually swayed by the most recent events. Not so with Observer Sport's much coveted Sports Poisonality of the Year award, however. Though a recent verbal spat with Swansea manager Brian Flynn, who refused to shake his hand after an F.A. Cup tie, may have had a bearing, readers here have longer memories. Thus does the title go to Graham Westley, beneficiary of a co-ordinated campaign on various club websites to earn him the accolade.
Westley, it may be recalled, was the David Brent-alike - his company was called AIMITA (attitude is more important than ability) - who decamped from Farnborough just days after their F.A. Cup tie against Arsenal in January. The owner and manager, instrumental in getting the tie switched to Highbury, decided that Hampshire could contain his ambition no longer and opted for Hertfordshire and the manager's job at Stevenage Borough. It cannot be long, surely, before the hurricane hits Hertfordshire.
Westley had gone into the year with a cloud hanging over him, having been escorted by the police from the stadium during a Conference fixture against Yeovil Town. If Sepp Blatter thought that Joe Cole's and Rio Ferdinand's cases took too long, it was as well he hadn't heard of Westley. In October - 13 months after the event - the FA fined Westley £500 for improper conduct and abusive language.
After he took two coaches and seven players with him to Stevenage, Farnborough were left in a serious state, the ramifications of which see them now in the relegation zone. How can this be, having received £600,000 from the Highbury tie? Westley had indeed pumped considerable sums into Farnborough, but as loans, and in team rather than club, having recruited players on high wages and long contracts. When he departed he recalled his loans, the switch to Highbury having offered the perfect opportunity to recoup his money. Farnborough's debts remain, with £2000 a month being paid under a Creditor's Voluntary Agreement. Now a quirk of the fixture computer sends Stevenage to Farnborough on Boxing Day. Many fans are likely to turn up just for the opportunity of conveying their point of wiew to Westley in person. "Stevenage Borough will be welcome here," says the man picking up the Farnborough pieces, their chairman Vic Searle. "I am sure Mr. Westley will receive some verbal comments from the fans, but it is my job as chairman to make sure there is no aggravation". Good luck Mr. Searle.
© The Observer 2003
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