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Westley steering Stevenage to new heights

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Paul Fletcher | 01:06 UK time, Saturday, 21 May 2011

The Crown Ground

Stevenage manager Graham Westley may not be everyone's cup of tea but he is now on the brink of steering his team to back-to-back promotions.

His side won 1-0 at the intimate and homely Crown Ground in Accrington on Friday evening to secure a 3-0 aggregate victory and book their place in the League Two play-off final, where they will take on Torquay at Old Trafford next Saturday.

When Stanley boss John Coleman was asked on the eve of the second leg what he expected from his team's opponents he suggested they would try to waste time, feign injury and foul their opponents at every opportunity.

"We know what to expect, they think they have their own laws - breaking up the game to get tactics to the players and get drinks on," said Coleman.

There were seven minutes of injury time at the end of a first half during which there were numerous stoppages as players of both sides received treatment.

"I do not think it was a victory for football," added the Stanley boss. "The first half bordered on being a pantomime."

Stevenage celebrate after Chris Beardsley (left) scores the opener against Accrington Stanley

Stevenage celebrate after Chris Beardsley (left) scores the opener against Stanley. Photo: Getty

Back in March the Football League wrote to Stevenage asking them for their response to suggestions that players were systematically feigning injury during games so that Westley could use the stoppages to relay tactical information to his team and provide them with fluids to refuel.

"The Football League asked the club to be mindful of certain aspects of the spirit of the game," said Westley in March. "There's no specific criticism in there."

Every time a Stevenage player went down on Friday evening the home fans were quick to voice their protests and there is no doubt that opposition teams and supporters are now mindful of Stevenage's alleged gamesmanship.

Coleman was irate with the performance of referee Russell Booth on Friday, not so much for sending off two Accrington players in as many second-half minutes, but because he thought Stevenage were allowed to get away with their aim of disrupting the flow of the game.

"We knew they would come with a game plan to spoil the game," he said. "I cannot believe they were allowed to get away with what they were.

"There were a lot of things that went unpunished. The referee said at half-time that all we wanted to do was moan and that we had not tried to play football. It is hard to play football when the ball is not in play."

Not surprisingly, Westley is unhappy with many of the criticisms levelled at his team.

"Stevenage is a hard working football club that is disciplined, organised and progressive," he argued in a recent interview.

"The sooner people stop listening to the voices that want to bring us down, they'll start to appreciate what we're really all about."

Westley, who always seems to have a polystyrene cup in his hand, is a complex and interesting character in his second spell at Stevenage. He has also managed Kingstonian, Enfield, Farnborough Town and Rushden & Diamonds.

The 43-year-old rarely looks you in the eye when answering a question, but he is a man of firm beliefs who is obviously not afraid to risk ridicule. Earlier in the season he told his team to "go out and win 5-0" ahead of their FA Cup against Premier League Newcastle. They did not quite manage that but they did defeat the Magpies 3-1 on a famous night at Broadhall Way.

Away from football he runs a company called Aimita, which stands for attitude is more important than ability. It might well be Westley's motto for life. It also hints at a tendency to veer towards corporate management-speak.

Discussing his team's progress this season and their achievement in reaching the play-off final, Westley said: "We always try our hardest to make sure we are better today than yesterday, and will be better tomorrow than today."

He is the sort of manager that needs his players to buy into and trust his methods, particularly given the club's unusual training schedule. Not for Stevenage the training routine that starts at 10 in the morning and ends early in the afternoon. Their players do a full day's work.

"We all know what the gaffer is about and we just get on with it," explained Lawrie Wilson, who played on the right of midfield on Friday.

"We get in and have breakfast, do a stretching session, go out and do weights, have lunch then work through a football-related session. After that we do some more weights or fitness work. The manager never stops striving for perfection."

Veteran goalkeeper Chris Day is in no doubt that the hard work has its rewards.

Stevenage manager Graham Westley

Stevenage manager Westley applauds his side's supporters. Photo: Getty

"We always get stronger through the season," said Day. "There is a method that we work to, although I am not going to give those secrets away. I'm coming up to 36 now and I do wonder what I might have achieved in my career if I had worked like this from the start."

Stevenage won 14 of their last 15 games last season to claim the Blue Square Bet Premier title and lost just two of their last 12 games this campaign as they climbed from mid-table to the play-off positions.

"Our philosophy is about a strong element of endurance in the boys' work and you only need to look at results in the back half of the season to see the impact," added Westley. "We were 18th in mid-January and have had to come a long way."

Another constant theme that emerges when you speak to Stevenage players is the togetherness in the squad. This is in part a consequence of the long hours that they spend in each other's company.

"The boys put in a lot of hours and we get mocked for it at times but we have made progress throughout the time I have been here and I am delighted for them," said Westley, who has been back at Stevenage since 2008.

As Coleman admitted, for all that Stevenage might have tried to break up the flow of the tie they were the better side over the two legs despite a lengthy injury and suspension list.

On the evidence of what I saw on Friday, Accrington should not be too disheartened because they have a lot going for them. The Crown Ground was awash with red and white flags and Stanley's fans deserve great credit for the effort they put in to making the ground as colourful and atmospheric as possible. I thought there was an intimacy about watching a game there that you rarely experience. Many of the players were on first-name terms with the fans and the local community appears to be at the very heart of the club.

But they will not be going en masse across Lancashire to Old Trafford after their team failed to come to grips with the challenges that a disciplined and well-organised Stevenage posed them.

Instead, Westley, described by some as anti-football but unquestionably single-minded in his methods, will go away and methodically prepare his team for the final.

He has taken Stevenage to Wembley twice in the FA Trophy final, winning in 2009 but losing last year. And Westley was typically bullish as he discussed the value of those experiences.

"We know the pain of defeat and the joy of victory," he said. "We have learnt some lessons about getting it right."

You can follow me throughout the season at



  • Comment number 1.

    John Coleman should look closer to home for his problems and stop blaming everyone else. The fact is that Accrington were dirty and ill-disciplined in the first leg and only avoided at least one red card due to the referee's leniency. So it ill-becomes Coleman to rant on about Stevenage's alleged gamesmanship. People in glass houses....

  • Comment number 2.

    Fair play to Stevenage.
    As an Oxford fan who has seen Stevenage over the past 5 years i do sense a strong team spirit and a very workmanlike attitude to their Football.

    What you say is true in that the last two seasons they have become stronger as the season goes on,the proof is in the pudding.

    I watched both legs of the game v Accrington and i think its fair to say that at no stage were they under the cosh which is remarkable when you consider Stanleys record, particularly at home.

  • Comment number 3.

    18th in mid Jan, wow that's an incredible achievement! Unlucky to Accy as it's always nice to see them do well. Hopefully next season they'll come back stronger. It would have been nice to see them taking three points of PNE he he. In regards to the anti-football I've not seen them in action so can't comment, however if it's in the rules of the game then unfortunately it's something that people have to live with. The key to dealing with it I suppose is to try and motivate the players to ignore it and keep disciplined.

  • Comment number 4.

    Congrats to Stevenage (and Torquay) but ..... The wider issues of the league 2 season is how can it be right for Stevenage & Torquay to contest the final when they were 10+ points inferior to Shrewsbury. To end a 46 match campaign with a mini knockout tournament has proved simply unjust. If we have to have playoffs let it be a three match league for each team. Whatever the system of playoffs, the risk is we end up with a result where 6th or 7th place beats 4th place. The country resoundly rejected that farce recently which was called AV.

  • Comment number 5.

    i hope they lose because they dont deserve to be where they are. i have been a fan of my local team farnborough for a long time and rremember when he left us and took half our players with him to stevenage. he is a disgrace to football. come on torquay !!!!

  • Comment number 6.

    HIs scandalous departure from Farnborough Town, leaving them to go bankrupt etc. Means any impartial fan of football can never want Wesley to achieve anything. He was even voted Sports Villain of the year by the Guardian! How often does a non-league manager make headlines in a national paper? To do so for obviously dubious practices speaks volumes....

  • Comment number 7.

    Graham Westley has become a brilliant manager, and Stevenage deserve to be where they are now, purely on merit. Coleman's charges are mere sour grapes. Westley was hated by all of us in his first stint as manager, but he came back humble and used psychology to great effect to get the boys back into winning ways. Our defensive record speaks for itself.

    Don't get bitter, get better.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    @Bestchelsea... That was nearly 10 years ago, when will you ever moved on. Look at us when Gills stole Stimmo which led to our slide from 1st in the BSP to outside the playoffs. 1 season later the matter was laid to rest.

    @Paul... Watch the replays from last night. John Colemans team (and pitch) were about as anti football as you can get. Everyone one of the players who went down on our side was injured if you watch the replays. Coupled with the most amateur diving I have seen from an opposing team and I went from barely any respect for to Accy to now hating them with a passion. I wouldnt shed a tear if they were relegated after their theatrics and non existant sportsmanship. We have had to put up with diving teams since way back in the early 2000s. Coupled with appalling (and suspectedly bias) officials and we're left wondering how on earth we've made it this far. We've never had the term 'anti-football' directed as other than on a handful of occassions by defeated managers. Your personal opinion of us clearly shows in this article and it is based on hearsay and your loyalty to other sides. Please come along to our place next season for 3-4 matches and then at the end write what you think.

    In regards to the letter from the FL.... nice to see you brought up that little gem. Yep it happened but everyone (including the opposition) moved on... Interesting that you should bring it up.

    Your blogs are usually great but today you've fallen short of your usually brilliant standards.

    (Hats off to the Accy fans who deserved better from their team and manager)

    And if this comment is removed again by the moderators please could they email me with the reason or I will be making a formal complaint.

  • Comment number 10.

    I have been following the mighty Boro since I was in nappies and am just so proud of the club having come from nowhere.

    I don’t know where all the anti-football, anti-Stevenage comments have come from, and to be honest I am getting a little fed up with comments about our physicality, not about our football. All year long when we played and beat the “bigger teams” they said that they lost because they could not cope with our physicality, never about that fact that we were tactically astute, or just plain hungrier than they were.

    Take the playoff semi’s for example. Accrington like to attack from the back and get the full backs forward early, in the first game we countered this by pushing our wingers up high, thus stopping their usual play and making them play through the middle, it disrupted there rhythm and allowed us to find more space when we had the ball to attack, it was just good tactics, nothing really to do with physicality.

    The only surprise with the second leg was that Accrington must have known Boro would try to do the same, but they didn’t prepare a Plan B. Maybe Accrington’s manager should look to his own short comings rather than blaming everyone else for his team’s exit from the playoffs.

    Although still frustrated with the Physical Tag, in the long run it may help Boro as teams may only concentrate on our physicality, and overlook the fact that we are tactically astute, can actually play a bit and mix it up.

    Who would have thought that all this football league stuff would be so much fun?

    Come on the Boro, lets make history again.

  • Comment number 11.

    Never heard of the bloke until I read this piece.
    Gamesmanship is gamesmanship, no matter what the field of play. Football is a results based business, & he is able to get results with his methods.
    Best of luck in the final!

  • Comment number 12.

    I'm Sone from Serbia and I follow English football since 1996 would like to add something.
    What a fantastic season for these two clubs is a pity that only one can pass, this is a great success for their fans.
    The system of play-off is best done, it gives strength and charm of English football, the weak give hope and fear stronger, I agree that this was unjust that a team that is better placed may remain without promotion,but when u see clubs like Blackpool in PL or Norwich City goes up 2 league in two year (Fantastic),or Bradford City who is long in lower leagues.

  • Comment number 13.

    Ok I'll write a less harsh comment.
    If you want to talk about theatrics watch every 'foul' by one of our players on an Accrington player. Even the PL divers must have been blushing.

  • Comment number 14.

    Andie99Uk - if my memory serves me right, his company bought a controlling share in Farnborough and he became manager. He boasted about how it put money into the club and players were bought. They played Arsenal at Highbury in the FA cup raising £600,000 shortly after he left and the season ended. It became apparent Farnborough were £200k in debt, and eventually folded. Again, if my memory serves me correctly, the money put in were loans and the players he bought in (by the loans I assume) were contracted to him and not the club and he took them with him to Stevenage... As I said, I may have got some of the details incorrect, but that was the gist. They had earnt loads in his last season in charge and still wound up being seriously in debt (eventually going bankrupt) and he took 8 of the 1st team with him to Stevenage.

  • Comment number 15.

    I can't help thinking that the implicit and explicit criticism of GW comes from the same quarter as that once directed at Arsene Wenger who had the audacity to change diet and training approaches and thus extend careers and win trophies. Any approach to running football clubs that is different, new and imaginative seems to be derided in a 'that's not the way we do things around here' attitude. Thank God for the likes of Graham Westley who care less for being 'one-of-the-footie-establishment-lads' and cares more about winning and progressing by being thoughtful and original.

    Stevenage under Westley work very hard and apply professionalism in the truest sense of the word. There's been a profound shift in the fortunes of League (Premier and Championship) clubs in the last 20 years. The poorly run, unintelligent and sometimes corrupt regimes have experienced a mass free-fall through the divisions, just look at how League 2 and the Blue Sq Prem are almost an exact inverse of what they once were.

    I for one hope that the celebration of ignorance that has characterised football club management becomes a thing of the past in this country and is replaced by thoughtfulness, creativity and progression epitomised in my opinion by Graham Westley.

    Vive la différence!

  • Comment number 16.

    @#4: However unjust you think playoffs may be, that's the system in place and it has been basically forever. If you don't make it to the automatic promotion places you have to be prepared to play against teams who didn't do as well as you in the league, that's just how it works. Ultimately, the best team usually makes it through, or if not, they almost always make a damn good go of it in the league above the next year.

    Never even heard of this guy until now, but frankly, I don't care. As #11 said, football is a results business and Stevenage are getting results. Maybe later they can work on fancy football, but for now their priority has to be getting the job done and trying to move up the leagues, which seems to be exactly what they're doing. It's easy to criticise, folks.

  • Comment number 17.

    Congratulations Stevenage.

    As an Accrington fan last night (main team : Blackpool), I have no protestations regarding the result over the two legs. The best team won, without doubt. We didn't learn from the first leg and continued to try and play hoofball, against a stronger, bigger, more athletic team.


    The Pro-Stevenage comments here reflect the general arrogance of the Stevenage fans I saw last night. Two good seasons in a row doesn't mean you are Big Time. Maybe Westley will take you up to League One, but what if he does a Farnborough on you? You might meet a few of the teams you've passed on the way!

    Another point is Westley himself. I find him pretty detestable to be honest. At no point have I ever heard him say anything interesting or even passionate about the game. He resembles a Management Consultant given a football management position. In twenty years time, will anyone else remember what he gave the game? Other than a litany of corporate after-match musings, I doubt it.

    Oh, and @ Ken, you don't even sound like you've even watched a game of football. Your sycophancy is quite nauseating. 'Creative'? He's no Picasso to me.

  • Comment number 18.

    Now then - many thanks for your thoughts so far. I thought we might have some very differing views when discussing Graham Westley.

    He is a man who divides opinion. Stevenage fans arguably have a very high opinion of him. Plenty of supporters of other clubs don't. The view of Westley, as with many things in football, is a matter of perspective.

    I have to say, I don't think the Stanley players did themselves all that many favours on Friday. They had to focus on the game and not the opposition and their alleged tactics. I thought they were drawn into worrying about the wrong things and that worked against them.

  • Comment number 19.

    @Jimmy.... Arrogance? Try looking at Oxford when they came up with us. We were saying up until the final 7 games the we were going to enc up midtable or survive. Even now the attitude is that losing against Torquay would yes be a disappointment but still far beyond our wildest dreams.
    2 Good seasons? 5 out of our last 6 seasons (05/06 being the exception).

    All this talk of Farnborough is getting old.... Are you seriously saying that after a decade of learning and a complete change in attitude a person cannot be forgiven? You're not even a Farnborough supporter, and he's never managed Accrington.

    As for passion.... I prefer results to be honest.

    But if you still insist on passion... Look at our celebrations by our players and fans at the end of both legs. Try reading our match programmes sometime and you'll find out that Graham lives for our club. The man is rich so why else we be involved unless he enjoyed it and it meant something to him?
    Just because he doesn't do a jig when we score or become a human kettle when the ref makes mistakes does not mean he is lacking in passion or ability.

    Ken is spot on, the league doesn't like change hence the stigma always attached to the non-league and non-league clubs (don't even think about including the ex-league clubs). Also... Just ask Holloway and Pulis what the PL and FA think of them and their clubs ;)

  • Comment number 20.

    *We were saying we'd stay up...
    **we were going to end up...

  • Comment number 21.

    Hi Jimmy,

    'Sycophancy' is a little hash, 'supporting' a club's meant to mean exactly that, however perhaps a clarification would help.

    By describing GW as 'creative' I wasn't referring to the style of play on the pitch, that's mainly in the pragmatic category but as Wenger is repeatedly advised, winning is more important than style. Creativity in this context means finding new ways and approaches to being competitive when resources are limited. In the early 90s when a couple divs. below the Conference, Stevenage did well to attract crowds above 400, a little over 20 relatively short years later they're on the cusp of the third tier of football, credit where its due I think. Westley obviously can't claim credit for all the success (step forward Paul Fairclough) but saving relegation, two Wembley finals, two play-off campaigns and a promotion is success by anyone's definition.

    I do struggle to understand the mentally within football - Wenger's too purist, Mourinho's too pragmatic, Fergie's too arrogant, Dalgleish is too dour and now Westley's too much like a management consultant. Football is a competitive pursuit, played within regulated laws - it's about winning and in relative terms Westley is an undisputed winner.

  • Comment number 22.

    As I said, Westley made mistakes in his first stint, but learnt from them. If you think supporting your team is "arrogant" then sport isn't for you. We have come a long way, and we have a long way to go before we're in the Big Time - no-one is seriously arguing against that at Stevenage - but why begrudge us our success? Are we supposed to doff our caps to our "betters"? We are a League club, and we fought hard and fair for that status. If your club has been stuck in the same division for many years, then you ought to be asking questions of them, not those who get a chance of promotion on merit.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    i am a Port Vale fan with no affinity towards Accrington, i can only comment what i,ve seen with my own eyes,,when Stevenage came to Vale in Feb they were undoubtedly deserved of 3 points,, however they left a bitter taste in my mouth,,i was told after about 20 mins that on the 26th minute a player would go down and a team meeting ensue,, to say i was flabbergasted is an under statement,, this was exactly what happened and became a regular trait apparently,,the time wasting and 'gamesmanship' ruined my image of them,,it wasn,t sour grapes either as i said they deserved to win,, give me Shrewsbury,Crewe or Torquay any day for the way they try and play the game,, as for being big-heads there were a few afters 18 months ago when they celebrated prematurely in the dressing rooms at our place having drawn in the Fa Cup,, we then became the 1st team to win at their place in 12 months to shut them up particularly Roberts who thinks he,s a right big time charlie,, i hope they go up merely so we don,t have to witness them next season and can have another weekend in Torquay,, it,s a results business and Westley is a master but not for me thank you

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 26.

    ongrats to Stevenage (and Torquay) but ..... The wider issues of the league 2 season is how can it be right for Stevenage & Torquay to contest the final when they were 10+ points inferior to Shrewsbury. To end a 46 match campaign with a mini knockout tournament has proved simply unjust.

    Torquay v Shrewsbury
    for 8 goals against 1

  • Comment number 27.

    The better team over the two legs won

    From a Stanley perspective we never reached the dizzy heights that we had set ourselves during our march up the table, from a footballing point of view there was no winner because of the stop start nature of the games which were pretty dire and showed the ugly side of football.

    Stevenage had a game plan which they played and stuck to, while Stanley tried to play their game but were not given time on the ball and had no plan B which resulted in them appearing flat and becoming embroiled in heated exchanges rather than keeping their heads and their focus on the game.

    Coleman has worked miracles at Stanley with year on year improvements on points & league placings a remarkable record and probably one that has not gone unoticed by other sides, I hope he feels there is still unfinished business at Stanley the same will probably be said of some of the players who have excelled this season to perform against all odds to get us to fifth never mind the play-offs.

    Next week's final between Boro and Torquay will be another test for those officiating as the Gulls are another team who like to get it down and play so will be interesting to see if the Stevenage game plan remains the same?

  • Comment number 28.

    I think the stevenage "game plan" remains the same. Play better more creative football than the opposition. Works most times, can't see why they'd change this for a big match.

  • Comment number 29.


    you talk utter tripe. Why should a team be automatically promoted if they finished 4th? FOURTH! The play-offs are brilliant, I have suffered defeat in them too but I know the system is brilliant. Teams know what to expect, finishing 3rd (or 4th in League 2's case) is not good enough.

    I'd go as far as to say if you don't like the play-offs you don't appreciate a good football match. The drama and excitement in the play-offs is scond to none and there is no better way to get promoted.

  • Comment number 30.

    It's a shame that this journalist has chosen to give even more coverage to the ridiculous outpourings of Mr Coleman.
    As per previous comments, John Coleman should spend more time looking at himself. His pathetic attempts to try and create some "bad blood" between our clubs backfired dramatically with the two sending offs.
    I'm disappointed that this article doesn't mention the dignity Westley has behaved with in the face of the tripe coming from Coleman.

  • Comment number 31.

    Have to agree with sheffieldharry (#16). Football is a results business and, as football fans, we can often be drawn into fantasising beautiful, free-flowing and creative football.

    As a Sheffield United fan, I've seen it all this season, football played on the deck and long balls that come down with snow on them. It's points on the board that matter.

    The lower leagues are extremely difficult to get out of and if you have a manager who is grinding out results (like Westley), then I'm sure you won't lose sleep over people like Jimmy pointing having a cheap shot at your manager's style.

  • Comment number 32.

    9.At 12:55 21st May 2011, Fortress Lamex wrote:
    @Bestchelsea... That was nearly 10 years ago, when will you ever moved on. Look at us when Gills stole Stimmo which led to our slide from 1st in the BSP to outside the playoffs. 1 season later the matter was laid to rest.

    if you understood the whole story you would understand it affected the club badly and we ended up going into adminstration and forming a new club. also learn to spell

  • Comment number 33.

    For what Westley did to Farnborough, I hope he doesn't win the play offs. It may have been a long time ago, but we're not talking about walking away and Farnborough just suffering a relegation such as when Redknapp leaving Portsmouth, we're talking about leaving a club with thousands of pounds of debt forcing it to completely going out of business. After all this time the reformed Farnborough are still not at the level they were when they Westley left them.

  • Comment number 34.

    Paul, A good article and being a Stevenage fan for nearly 13 years now its a very exciting period to come up. Torquay will be a challenge as i rate them quite highly and it should make for an interesting final with two sides who do play football! I just feel that some clubs just jump on the bandwagon saying that we are "Big & Strong" and "We dont play football" its utter tosh! We are a very organised side and you have to give Graham the credit he deserves regardless of his history before. History is in the past, its the present that we should be looking at!

  • Comment number 35.

    As a Stevenage fan, I'm naturally proud of the amazing progress of my club and the tremendous work done both on- and off-the-pitch.

    I disagree with those who criticise Stevenage for playing "anti-football". It's not Brazil 1970, but it's no worse than what you get anywhere else, it's a method that has worked phenomenally for us so can you blame them for keeping it up?

    Even if there are critics to how we play our game, I firmly believe that the way the club is run is exactly how it should be done over the world. Stevenage don't make much money, and it's a pittance compared to fellow League Two clubs such as Bradford City, even when we won the Conference title last year our budget was miniscule compared to our title rivals Luton Town and Oxford United, but this is a team that has a set budget and always work within it. While Crawley Town bought the Conference title this season, and Manchester City and Queens Park Rangers have done similar in the higher echelons, Stevenage have quietly built a strong squad who work well together and have a tremendous team ethic, reaching new heights at the same time as traditionally bigger clubs such as Chester City and Halifax Town have imploded into lower league oblivion.

    Stevenage are a well run club and at least from this perspective, deserve all the success that Graham Westley and Phil Wallace (unsung hero) has earned them.

  • Comment number 36.

    I saw most Wycombe games this season. Accrington were one of only about three sides to come and play good attacking football and try to win, along with Torquay. Stevenage however did about ten two footed challenges- one of which broke our player's ankles which gave him a 6 week injury. There were elbows flying everywhere, pushing and although one of their players did get sent off, they ultimately won because they hacked any player that got close to their goal. They were a disgrace to football, and I hope Torquay win the play off final so we won't have to play them again next season.

  • Comment number 37.

    I can understand why Graham isnt everyone's cup of tea. He doesnt quite fit the mold of what people want or expect a manger to be. Although he was a fair footballer , he has a degree, heads a successful company that advices some of the worlds top company names, and is a self made millionaire. I guess he comes to football with some different ideas of how success can be achieved. I think even those of us who appreciate what he has has done for the club would struggle to say that he's Mr Cuddly or that every tactic he employs is admirable. But despite that Stevenage actually can play good football ... What Stevenage have done is very much what clubs like Bolton and Stoke have done at a higher level... when you dont have the same resources as some of those around you sometimes you need a range of tactics to survive and progress. Stevenage have no debts, play to a budget and are going upwards not backwards. I hope people will see that we can play good football too next Saturday.

  • Comment number 38.

    Like with all comments about football from supporters wherever you see or hear them, I'll take most of what has been posted here with a smile and graciously accept that we are all entitled to our own opinions. Passions run high days and even weeks after games, and we all feel the need to defend our own team and players actions.

    Seventeen years I have been following Stevenage. During that time we have played some shocking football, some good football, and had decisions go for and against us. I remember the first game I attended, versus Dover, where I am sure the opposition had a player red carded who then failed to leave the pitch and the ref didn't pay much attention so the game continued. Time and many other influences have probably swayed my memory of that game though.

    The current Stevenage squad play the game so it falls into the good football bracket I mentioned above. On our day we attack with flair and pace, using the wings to full advantage, or by cutting through the middle with a decisive pass to a front man to knock down. We defend well and gone are the days of a Bunce hoof down pitch 99% of the time. I'd still like us to keep the ball down a bit more, but you do what you have to do sometimes.

    In my opinion, from what I can remember, during my time as a supporter and attendee at games the feeling of us being a physical and 'bullying' side has never cropped up until very recently. I can remember Stevenage being kicked around the pitch many times, but us doing the kicking? The red cards would suggest that this has been the case, but as a game plan? Not when I've seen us play. I still feel we need to toughen up and hand back some of what gets dished out to us, to be honest.

    One of the problems might well be that our players are a little more uneducated in the nuances of sportmanship as played in league football. The elbows and digs that the opposition give Stevenage players which the ref doesn't notice. We foul and its a clear foul, ref spots and give it. The players see and know the opposition are fouling us, but the ref misses them unless they are leg breakers such as that received by Lawrie Wilson the other year. The casual football watcher, or the young inexperienced fan, probably miss things the same as the ref and see it as black and white with our blatant fouls. That is life, and seemingly part of the game.

    As it happens I thought Fridays game was a bit of an anti-climax, with the pitch having been ploughed beforehand meaning that good football was always going to be hard. We had it in short spurts though, from both sides at times. Even before the double red cards though, I thought that only one side had turned up to play, and that really annoys me. Play your game, don't play to stop the other team from playing theirs. It reminded me of most of the Spurs vs Arsenal/ManU/Chelsea games, where Spurs were so mindful of stopping the other lot that they didn't attempt to play football.

    Will Stevenage change the way they play? Perhaps, but I am mindful of how a lot of the fans were booing Westley during his first few games back in his second stint; he has shaped and moulded a team around his style now and it is bringing (limited) success - I would suggest he sticks to his guns and pretty soon everyone will be more understanding of what he and the club are about. Physical? No, passionate and keen to impress.

  • Comment number 39.

    I feel for farnboro, i really do. i remember being at BW shortly after Westley came to Stevenage (cold, 3-1 to Stevenage) and their 12 fans were really upset. Seriously though, no-one said it was gonna be fair, Stevenage know that after being unfairly treated in 1996 and not allowed into the league and we seem to have been generally disliked ever since, GW or no GW. He was derided when he came back but fair play the man has created a winning team on a small budget and Boro are now scaling unforeseen heights - even if we don't win saturday. We don't have the romantic tinge of an accy or AFC Wimbledon of course, hence the negative/apathetic press, and we're not arrogant just supporting our team as a previous poster stated.

  • Comment number 40.

    Stenenage brilliant to rise from non league to play offs I followed them all over country when in non league and it cost a few pennies as i live live in Manchester come on stevenage and put Torquay to bed PS Chris Day your my England No 1 Keeper show it it on Sat at Old Trafford come on boro

  • Comment number 41.

    i have been a stevenage fc fan for god knos how long!
    been to all the games non-stop for past 10 seasons!
    i saw us get knocked out harshly to newcastle and saw us smash them for revenge!
    anyone who says graham westley is a villian - is completely wrong he is a hero to every single stevenage fan going because of everything he has done for us! i feel sorry for farnborough to lose such an amazing manager but thats life and im proud of everything hes done for this club and this season! and im hoping we can do back to back promotions by beating the torquay on saturday!
    come on you boro!!!!!

  • Comment number 42.

    Cant say that Stevenage "style" football is for me - doesn't seem to be a played in the spirit of the game, too stop start, long over the top balls, don't get me wrong - it works for them,but can't say that I would want to see it every week. I know its nice to be the winners , but its also nice to win,with a little finesse.

  • Comment number 43.

    The playoff system is an unfair lottery. Teams that are in the playoff places but have no hope of getting automatic promotion can rest some of their best players and take it easy for the last few games where as teams like Shrewsbury are putting all their energies into getting into the top three and have little energy left for a play off contest after a long hard season they have to field their very best team each game to remain in contention. Also it means that teams promoted through the playoffs have less time to prepare for the next season and they are almost doomed to yo-yo back down next season as they weren't really good enough to go up anyway, just lucky in a few games.

  • Comment number 44.

    Reply to 43.

    The playoffs are completely fair, everyone at the start of the season knows the score and the possible permutations, the teams in there would have played each other twice with both managers and players being able to analysis the previous games to make a plan to get through to the final.

    The playoffs in league 2 add so much to the end of season excitement. It makes it exciting for the fans for teams up to 10th usually who still have something to play for, which in turn brings extra revenue for the clubs.

    Back before the playoffs were introduced in the conference the end of season was pointless for a lot of the teams in the league, usually with only 3 teams in a position to win the league and 4-8 clubs facing relegation. The playoffs brought excitement back into the league for an extra 4-8 clubs, as well as the clubs just missing out on auto promotion another chance to go up. It gave almost every club something to play for until the end of the very last game.

    Taking them away simply to make it fairer for the highest place team in the playoff positions would simply take away all the interest and excitement to a lot of teams come the end of the season.


  • Comment number 45.

    Having watched the ups & downs of football in my home town since the days of Stevenage Town FC I didn't renew my season tickets when Westley returned. Don't get me wrong. I still watch the team and wish them all the success that their effort deserve.

    Makes me laugh when I read about the so called 'controversial manager' & club. Just wait for next season when Steve Evans and is band of merry money men arrive in the football league with more money than he had at Boston United and look what happen there. Within 12 months we will be St Evenage, managed by the very reverend Bishop Westley.

  • Comment number 46.

    #42 we can knock it about mate, don't believe the media hype.
    #43 just the way it is now, like 44 says same for everyone, would you like us back in the days of re-election from conference?
    #45 spot on mate, lot of crims about, GW relatively monastic! btw steeple or guilden?
    bad note: gonna be tiny crowd at OT, we only sold 3500 thursday doubt gulls sold much more. Bad organising by FL shoulda been in London or even brum. oh well we'll have a good day hopefully...

  • Comment number 47.

    #46 - Steeple. You know, the posh one!

  • Comment number 48.

    I was at the first leg. There were no faked injuries first half, at least half of the 7 minutes of extra time came from the Stanley keeper being injured after the second goal.

    John Coleman made some truly ungracious comments. In the second half Stacy Long was fouled quite badly, the Accrington players then caused a big melee by trying to start a fight because they felt Long over-reacted which was a) unjust and b) unwarranted. A similar tackle in the second leg resulted quite rightly in a red card, and the second red card was for a slap to the face that was seen and rightly reported by the assistant referee. That's a red card offense to and a damned stupid thing to do.

    Stevenage have been unfairly maligned all season as a one-dimensional long ball team, who are big and strong and thuggish and just look to muscle 1-0 victories.
    They are far more than that, and have always looked at their best when they try to get the ball down and pass it properly using their excellent wingers and over-lapping wing-backs. Yes they have a big strong spine of a team with a tall striker, big central midfielders and center-backs, but what successful team doesn't these days. You have to have that. People like #42 on this list I can only assume didn't watch the Newcastle and Reading games this season which showed the team playing the quality football we have enjoyed all season. The second leg against Accrington wasn't the best to be sure, but Stevenage at least tried to play football on a terrible pitch that you couldn't even dribble on.

    Oh and #43 Matt, I love the play-offs. They provide tremendous excitement and tension and brilliant games of football! Think how dull the end of the season could be if you only had the top 4 able to get promotion and not the top 9 as we had on the last day of this season.

  • Comment number 49.

    As a Barnet fan I certainly don't support our rivals Stevenage - but how John Coleman has the cheek to complain about any other team employing gamesmanship is beyond me. That pitch of theirs is a disgrace. But what is even worse is the fact that they blatently water those ruts at half time to make the pitch even worse. No wonder they have a good home record, nobody could play on that terrible pitch. Good on Stevenage for beating them - and even better if Torquay win tomorrow.


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