Thursday, April 28, 2005

A brief look at Westley

Graham Westley has been the Stevenage manager since moving from Farnborough after their FA Cup game against Arsenal in January 2003.

Westley, now 36, had a playing career that was cut short by injury. He spent time at Barnet and had a short spell at Wycombe in the 1987/88 season where he made 23 appearances and scored 5 goals. Wycombe finished 18th in the GM Vauxhall Conference that season.

After his playing days he went into business, and was said to have made an excellent living, with the J&D organisation. In its original form, JH Westley Cleaning Contractors worked exclusively in the construction sector. But since 1985, J&D has supplied some of the biggest names in the print and media sectors with a wide range of contracted services; these include News International.

However Westley wanted to get back into football and, after spells elsewhere,
eventually became manager of Farnborough Town. At the time its stadium was called
Cherrywood Road, but Westley soon changed it to the Aimita (Attitude Is More Important Than Ability) Stadium.

At the time one report said: Former Barrow boy boss Graham Westley took over the managerial reins in 1999 and - as the saying goes - liked the club so much that he bought it, and then made everybody laugh when he said his aim was to get Farnborough into the Premiership within 10 years. The trouble is, Westley was serious - he meant what he said, but not for the first time his ambition seemed to outstrip the club's standing and potential (and perhaps his ability as a manager - ed)

Another report stated: The name of Farnborough Town became synonymous with that of one man: Graham Westley. A locally based former professional turned businessman through injury, Westley's dream of owning and being manager of a Premiership club came one step closer after he bailed out Boro' whilst they were staring down the barrel of a financial crisis. Seizing the club by the scruff of the neck he was able to buy a team capable of winning the Ryman League by a country mile. A huge turn around in fortune for the man who was sacked by Kingstonian in favour of Geoff Chapple. The club returned to the Conference on a crest of a wave in 2001, but for all of Westley's rhetoric that they would walk the Conference at the first attempt the reality proved a little different.

Graham Westley's first season in the Conference saw Farnborough finish an impressive if unexciting 7th in the league. For the second season the signs were set out early that it would be his last and by Christmas amidst the run in the FA Cup the rumours were rife. The high profile game against Arsenal turned out to be his last as he left taking his backroom staff and seven players to Conference rivals Stevenage Borough who were heading for relegation.

After the game, Graham Westley - the Farnboro' manager, chairman and owner - was grilled by the press on the decision to switch the game to Arsenal. A great deal of stick had been flying around. Instead of admitting they had cashed-in, he re-invented history by changing the original reasons (police advice, perimeter fence too low) to a brutal dishing of his Club Secretary, who wasn't able to cope with arranging the arrival of SKY television, the press pack, the extra security and the distribution of tickets.

One commentator at the time thought that Westley was a real life version of David Brent from "The Office", particularly when Westley started to talk about himself in the third person. The name of his company and club sponsors, AIMITA, stands for "Attitude Is More Important Than Ability" and they have News International as one of their clients. It was no surprise to see the shirt sponsorship for the Fourth Round had been sold to The Sun newspaper.

It will also come as no surprise that the AIMITA Corporation has a list of Ten Commandments. Number three on the list is "We constantly seek and seize opportunities". Number ten is "We value loyalty".

Two days after the Arsenal game, Westley left Farnborough to become manager of Stevenage signing a three and a half year deal. He left the club heavily in debt despite the proceeds from the Arsenal game and with a transfer embargo and a threadbare squad having taken several Farnborough players with him. Even worse he still owned the club although it was soon reported that he had signed it over to his wife.

Another comment at the time suggested that Westley's personal ambition is said to want to manage a Premiership club within the next decade but there's more chance of Adie Randall (can't place him - ed) playing for Real Madrid than this happening! Still, you can't fault the man for his ambition, even if some of his plans & methods are a little suspect.

But perhaps the most interesting comments came from Terry Brown, the Aldershot manager, in November 2003 on the eve of a Shots' trip to Broadhall Way.

"I hope we go there and give them a right stuffing. I don't like Graham Westley
and I never have done!"