In yet another exclusive, we bring you an extract from Graham’s third volume of diaries, where he details the 2013/14 season on a match by match basis. Sometimes interesting, these memoirs show the mind of one of this country’s finest football managers in perpetual motion. To avoid publishing – and subsequent pulping – costs, volume 3 of Graham’s diaries is available as an audio download at a cost of £23.99, with narration by Dino Maamria. This exclusive extract focuses on the run in to the end of the season.
22 March 2014
Stevenage 2 MK Dons 3
I’m not sure if I like Karl Robinson. Just like me, he’s overachieved with a team of underachievers, but it’s obvious from his post-match interviews that he’s copying my style, right down to the Matalan suits. I also think he’s older than he says he is. Dino is adamant that Karl looks 5 years older than me and that he’s at least a stone heavier. But, if you’re trying to emulate me, you really shouldn’t drive a Ford Mondeo, even if it is a Titanium X Sport. That is why Karl looks like a rep for a biscuit manufacturer and that is why I look like the cross between the manager of a professional football club and the owner of a recording studio.
Today was a game of two halves. In the first, we showed the kind of attacking play that we’ve shown all season. Two goals to the good, it was obvious that the team were somewhat over-excited. At half time Dino had the brainwave that, to get the players on a spiritual level, we should have a 15 minute transcendental meditation session. He said he’d learnt this from listening to music by someone called George Harrison (never heard of him). Anyway, the meditation brought the players down to an even keel. Unfortunately, it was to no avail as there was only one winner in the second half and that was the wind (south by south westerly). I deployed Big D to one of his defensive positions (can’t remember which one) and, even in the face of this meteorological onslaught, we only conceded 3 goals, when teams with much bigger budgets than ours would have conceded at least 4 or possibly 5. I take nothing away from Karl. MK Dons are a strong team and will get automatic promotion this year.
26 March 2014
Coventry City 1 Stevenage 0
We arrived at Sixfields via Highfield Road and the Ricoh Arena with just 20 minutes to go before kick off. I immediately reached the following conclusions:
- I will no longer allow Dino to map read
- In the future, whoever is employed to map read will not rely on the 1978/79 Playfair Football Annual as a navigational aid
- I will never allow the players free reign of Watford Gap Services again. It took 45 minutes to track them all down, with Reidy being the last one, stumbling back into the coach with 3 Curly Wurlys, 2 bottles of Fanta, and the latest copy of Razzle.
After that, the game itself went in a blur, although I’m sure we played exciting attacking football with long periods of intense pressure, for that is the style that my teams are famous for. Unfortunately we lost to a very strong side by a single goal. I can see Coventry City gaining automatic promotion next season.
29 March 2014
Stevenage 1 Port Vale 1
I spent two hours before today’s match considering what to call this latest volume of my memoirs. On the one hand, I want to mention Gary Smith in the title, being the architect of everything that is wrong with the present squad, but on the other hand I don’t want to give him any credit. It even irks me to write his name in the text of this diary so, from now on, I won’t. Ash remarked that this season has been like trying to scale Everest in a pair of Gazelles, which I thought was pretty catchy and would make a good title for the book. But I didn’t fully understand it and, in any event, it would mean that my name wasn’t in the title.
Port Vale are my kind of club. It would not surprise me if they won League 1 next season with their free-flowing football. It took a wonder goal from Peter Hartley to secure a draw for us. The first thing I thought at the end of the match was that none of the players Gary Smith brought to the club could ever have scored that goal. The only down-side to my day was not meeting Port Vale’s celebrity fan, Mork out of Mork and Mindy.
1 April 2014
Stevenage 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0
Even though Wolves are on their way to the title, we matched them in every part of the pitch. I don’t like to single out players but our right back/central midfielder/centre forward Jimmy Smith, and our right winger/left winger/centre forward/false 9/utility right back Lucas Akins were on fire. As everyone knows, Jimmy is one of the players I brought to the club, whereas Lucas has been turned from a Gary Smith sort of player into a Graham Westley sort of player by yours truly (Graham Westley).
Don’t get me wrong, I like Kenny Jackett, but when it comes to the end of season awards that are given out by the League Managers Association he will be unjustly awarded manager of the season purely on the basis of getting a team with a much bigger budget than mine into the Championship. I know for a fact that he’s also added a consonant to the end of his name to appear more interesting (and probably to avoid being sued by the manufacturer of a type of coat). If the LMA had any sense it would give the manager of the year award to me on the basis that I have managed to win matches with Felipe Morais in the side.
I was introduced to a pop celebrity after the match. I must admit I’d never heard of Robert Plant, but he certainly didn’t look like the sort of person who could play the slap bass or tenor sax. When I asked him if he was related to my local driving instructor Bill, he turned around and didn’t come back. Very rude man.
5 April 2014
Shrewsbury Town 1 Stevenage 0
I can never decide if you pronounce Shrewsbury as “Shrewsbury” or “Shrewsbury”. I went with Shrewsbury and nobody corrected me so, once again, I decided I’d made a fabulous call of judgement. We spent a lovely two hours preparing for the match with a look around Percy Grower’s Garden Centre. I got a couple of hydrangea plants for the garden, and Zoko bought a stunning ficus. We didn’t bump into him, but I’ve been a fan of Mr Grower ever since he was the gardener on Grange Hill.
This was a game we should never have lost and it was only down to the time wasting tactics of the Shrews (should that be pronounced “Shrews”? – I’ll check later) that we did. Every time we went into the opposition half their players were instructed to kick the ball out of the ground and into the River Severn, where some old boy would then have to get into his coracle (a type of bath tub) to retrieve it (the ball). This happened on at least three occasions. But don’t get me wrong. Shrewsbury are in a false position and it is clear that they will not get relegated this season. I also think that they will push for automatic promotion to the Championship next year.
12 April 2014
Stevenage 2 Colchester Utd 3
“With radio friendly vocals over the top of intense jazz meanderings, one is reminded of balmy nights in the Caribbean or Latin America.” Not my words, but the words of Duke Edgar in his review of Night Birds by Shakatak in Jazz Funk Weekly (10 May 1982).
Colchester are a good side. If I was their manager I would expect nothing less than automatic promotion next season. Unfortunately I’m not their manager and I’m left with a team of players brought to the club by somebody else. As soon as I realised that none of Gary Smith’s players could understand the pieces of paper I regularly deployed on the pitch, I knew it was time for change. Lee Hills had been the first to prove his inability to understand my basic instructions. What do my pieces of paper say? Well, that’s a trade secret covered by numerous confidentiality clauses, but I can share two of mine from today’s game just to show how a successful manager’s mind works. Firstly, on 43 minutes, I passed a piece of paper to Jimmy Smith who – being a Westley player – fully understood it and passed it around the team. The note said “Defence is a state of mind, whereas attack is a circumstance of consciousness. When mind and consciousness are married together, one has midfield.” Unfortunately, whilst the back three or four (I can’t remember which) were collectively reading this, Colchester got a lucky equaliser. A later note, sent on after 75 minutes, singled out Luke Freeman and said “Luke, score a goal.” I also drew a picture of a football going into a goal. Football historians such as Steve Claridge will note that Freeman duly scored our second.
18 April 2014
Sheffield United 1 Stevenage 0
It was down to yours truly to pick the music for the coach trip up to Lancashire. A heady mix of Shalamar, Level 42, The Lighthouse Family, Colonel Abrams and the Manhattan Transfer had everyone champing at the bit in readiness for this crucial fixture, which was evident by the way they all rushed off the coach as soon as we pulled in to Bramhall Lane.
It was pointed out to me at the end of this match that we had taken just 2 points out of our last 21. Without hesitation, I pointed out that between 9 February 2013 and 2 March 2013 Gary Smith gained 0 points out of 18. When it was pointed out to me that Gary Smith won his next match, therefore gaining 3 points out of 21, I replied that he had only won that match due to his over reliance on the loan system. Having won that argument I then set about reaching the conclusion that Sheffield Utd will be League 1 champions next season. I told their manager this after the match, and we chatted long into the night, with me recalling the times as a kid when I’d stayed up late to watch his Nottingham Forest teams win the European Cup. I must admit that Brian’s reputation as a drinker is somewhat exaggerated. In fact, my two Malibu and cokes easily trumped his glass of red wine.
21 April 2014
Stevenage 1 Bristol City 3
What a time to meet the best team in the division and a club I tip to get automatic promotion next season. A defeat and we’d be relegated. Well, it was going to take a minor miracle to get anything out of this match so I could not really complain when the inevitable happened. At the final whistle my relief was palpable. But when I say relief, I don’t mean relief in the conventional dictionary definition of the word, but more in the relief (noun) where one could be seen to be experiencing alleviation, ease, or deliverance through the removal of pain, distress, oppression etc..
26 April 2014
Stevenage 3 Walsall 2
Walsall proved themselves no pushovers. An outside chance for automatic promotion next season? I’ve already put my money on it. I’d reviewed our last few matches and realised that Bira Dembele had only played in one position for the club, so immediately put him at left back so that he didn’t feel left out. I took a look at the league table after this thrashing and could smile satisfactorily to myself that we were now 23rd in League 1 and that Gary Smith was the only Stevenage manager in living memory to take the club to rock bottom. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in his house and to see the look on his face when he realised that. That’s if his face wasn’t artificially skewed by the jellied eels he was no doubt eating for his tea.
3 May 2014
Brentford 2 Stevenage 0
Today is memorable as the start of the next chapter in the life story of Graham Westley. At approximately 5.15 pm, Brentford chairman Greg Dyke came and spoke to me about an interesting new venture that would ultimately see me managing a Premier League team. It was hard to understand Greg due to the meat pie he was eating at the time, but he seemed to think that my talents lie in managing either Stoke City or Burnley in a new league that the FA is shortly going to announce. At last, my talents in getting Preston North End into this season’s play offs have been recognised. I went to sleep a contented Graham (Westley). By the way, we lost today’s game.