A505 – Trunk Road to the Nidge

3 10 2014

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got history with Luton.  Back in 1982, when I was following my “real team”, I came within an inch of getting my head kicked in and my Pringle jumper stolen by the MIGs on my walk from the bus station to Kenilworth Road, cos they obviously thought a 14 year old to be a valid target for their petty violence/love of second hand designer golf jumpers.  Fear not dear reader, I escaped with my Scottish knitwear and proudly wore it for a further 3 months before it fell out of fashion as swiftly as it came in.  Then, in 1988, clutching my bucket hat to my chest and with tears welling up, I was present at Wembley at the Gus Caesar Final; an occasion that caused deeper emotional scars than one might expect.  Sandwiched between these traumatic experiences, I also managed to get kicked off a degree course at Luton College of Higher Education, mainly because I was so depressed by my daily surroundings in the heart of Bedfordshire, which had the feel, optimism and aesthetics of communist Russia.

“Wait,” you say. “He’s off into Nick Hornby territory again.  A couple more paragraphs and he’ll be eulogising about the Terry Neill team of 1979.”  And yes, that first paragraph does make me out to be a bit of a smug wanker, self-absorbed with my own trivial memories of events that probably didn’t happen.  But, in my own words, I’m a pretentious elitist.  I’ll be the first to admit that I love the rock band Parquet Courts not so much because they remind me of Pavement during their Slanted and Enchanted era, but more because I’m never sure how you’re supposed to pronounce their name.  And surely there’s nothing more pretentious than writing a blog about Stevenage Football Club that makes no reference to Stevenage Football Club until now.

The point I’m trying to get to is that I really am not all that fussed about Luton Town. I refuse to join the hordes of fans who have decided to hate Luton on the basis of a non-existent history between us.  Whatever floats their boat, I suppose, but these would be the same people who take pleasure in the X Factor, trying to inject some meaning in their vacuous lives through lowest common denominator exploitative television.  (I fucking told you I was pretentious).

Whilst I spent more time than is healthy as a teenager calling Steve Foster a fucking wanker, and whilst I delighted in every seedy pitfall of David Pleat, Luton Town were just another inconvenience to my “real club” in achieving success. Similarly now, there’s not a great deal that winds me up about Luton.  I understand the need for fans of football teams to build up rivalries to get the adrenaline going but, other than the fact that geography ensures that over 2,000 away supporters will be in our stadium tomorrow, are Luton fans that bothered about us?  I for one have more of an issue with other clubs in League 2.  Cambridge Utd for instance, who I’ve had an issue with for an awful long time.  And Accrington fucking Stanley; a team I had no issue with at all until our inaugural season in League 2, but a club and manager that now makes me want to beat up 14 year old kids and steal their jumpers (I joke: please do not inform the authorities).

Sure, Luton has a small number of nob heads amongst its support. But so do we.  Not least the idiots behind me who thought it clever to ironically cheer Sam Beasant whenever he caught the ball in our victory over Shrewsbury.

So, in an ill-thought out and rushed summary, let’s just enjoy tomorrow, wear flowers in our hair and cheer on our lads to victory. As a wise man once said, “I fucking love you Gumbo.”





Graham Westley: My Third Volume Of Memoirs

16 05 2014

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.

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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.





All the Fun of the Fair

28 03 2014

BeardedLady

The day started innocuously enough.  One of my companions told me the rumour that, should we get relegated, Phil Wallace was going to sell the club to Graham Westley.  Displaying my renowned quick wit – the sort of wit that could see one invited to take part in a live panel show in front of a paying audience – I responded by saying that, should we get relegated, it would be one hell of an expensive way for the manager to secure his job.  Or words to that effect.  Said in a highly amusing manner.

Three hours later, whilst Peterborough headed north up the A1 with all three points, we retreated to the pub for a few pints and a game of pool.  Conversation quickly turned to our defensive frailties and the way in which this season’s team appeared to lose energy after 70 minutes, which was strange for one of Westley’s teams.  We also wondered whether Lucas Akins was ever going to control the ball with his feet and not with another miscellaneous part of his body.  More drink was consumed and we started riffing on the reasons why Stevenage couldn’t sustain a decent home following.  I attempted to articulate an argument but, due to my legendary inability to hold my drink, I was unable to.  To those that were there (and anyone else that cares to listen), this is what I meant to say:

When it comes to attendances, Stevenage is simply not playing on a level field.  I’ve heard the argument countless times that the inhabitants of our town and the surrounding area are more intent on watching Arsenal, Tottenham, West Ham and Chelsea than travelling the shorter distance to see football in the cheaper, more intimate confines of The Lamex.  And I can’t disagree with any of that.  The railway station is full of them escaping the town every Saturday.  But there’s a reason for this.  Those four teams alone have a combined history of 488 years.  488 years!!!

Being a new town, Stevenage is crammed with generations of families who have moved out of London and who’ve supported those teams.  I mean, who the fuck would want to go and watch Tottenham Hotspur on a regular basis if they hadn’t been brainwashed into doing so by older generations of knuckle draggers?

And while I think about it, these Premiership clubs are nothing more than cults, indoctrinating supporters into handing over large amounts of money whilst chanting their tired mantras over and over again.  Being a member of the West Ham Supporters Club is on a par with being a member of the Moonies.  Whilst both organisations may give hope of a more spiritual existence, we all know how that ends for Hammers fans.

For legal reasons, I’m not suggesting for one minute that the Church of Scientology is a cult, but don’t you think there’s more than a coincidence that Tom Cruise once attended the Manchester derby?  Especially when he could have gone to see Rochdale instead?  To reiterate, the Church of Scientology is not a cult.  But you get my point.  So, until Stevenage FC employs Charles Manson as its CEO, I’m afraid we’re destined to exist on our present level of support.

The example that bucks this trend is MK Dons. Milton Keynes as a town has only existed since 1967 and its football team is only 10 years old.  So why do crowds at Stadium mk significantly surpass those at The Lamex.  It’s fairly obvious to me that the Dons are nothing more than an interesting curiosity to the majority of people that pay money to see them play.  They are the bearded lady at the fair.  Much in the same way that people slow down on the motorway to witness the remnants of a horrific car crash, people actually take pleasure in seeing a Scouse magician’s team of one-trick ponies fail to hit the big time.  It’s like going on Facebook to look at your female family and friends taking selfies without the application of make-up, only to realise that they’ve applied the soft filter and taken the picture in a darkened room.  Once those gawkers and voyeurs realise that Dr Karl’s magic is nothing more than a cheap illusion, they’ll soon fuck off back to their sofas.

Having failed to provide this insight at the time, I staggered out of the pub, briefly mentioning to my friends that I had been asked to appear on ALOOT Live.  One of them replied that surely you needed to be funny to go on something like that.  Displaying a complete lack of wit – the absence of which must raise questions about my invitation to take part in a live panel show in front of a paying audience – I couldn’t think of anything to say.





Boro v Everton – the big match of the day preview

24 01 2014

facup

Stevenage is once again in the middle of an epidemic.  No kids, I’m not talking about chlamydia, I’m referring to the severe outbreak of Cup Fever sweeping the town, not seen since the last time we played a Premiership club at The Lamex.  Fasten your seat belts and hang on to your hats as we bring you the match preview to end all match previews.

This is the third time in four seasons that a Premiership team has come to The Lamex Stadium in the FA Cup.  As such, it is the third time in four seasons that the television companies have come to The Lamex to bring the wider population romantic tales of our bunch of postmen, plasterers and street cleaning operatives that make up the Stevenage team.  In stark contrast to the last two Premiership clubs we’ve faced, this time our guests are a genuinely good team with a chance of actually qualifying for something.

It’s fair to say that Stevenage and Everton are worlds apart, and not only in footballing terms.  As we all know, Liverpool itself is a large seaside town somewhere in the north of England.  On the other hand, Stevenage is a small town in leafy Hertfordshire separated from its neighbouring communities solely by virtue of snobbery and prejudice.  Liverpool as a town can boast many cultural highlights, including the ancient ruins of Brookside Close (tragically destroyed in the Emmerdale Farm plane crash of 1993), the Cavern Club (famous for the first live appearance of a young Cilla Black), and The Stan Boardman Experience.  Stevenage’s tourist attractions are limited to a 10 pin bowling alley, an overpriced multiplex cinema staffed by simpletons, and a KFC drive through.  There are plans, however, to embrace our footballing heritage by preserving the park pitch where Ashley Young first perfected the art of simulation at the age of 8.

Despite these differences, there are many similarities between the two towns.  For instance, Stevenage has historical links with the town of Liverpool.  Back in the 1970s and 80s a large immigrant population of Scousers could regularly be seen wandering around the town wearing their red football shirts, although these all seemed to move away circa 1992 just as an influx of Mancunians moved in.  Both Stevenage and the Toffees also have celebrity fans.  Everton can boast the support of Sir Paul McCartney and the ginger one out of Girls Aloud, whereas someone told me that the drummer out of Fields of the Nephilim had once talked about attending a match at the Boro.

So what can we expect from Saturday’s fixture?  Don’t ask me, I thought we’d beat Notts County.  Almost certainly, however, I believe that 22 men will start the game and a different set of 22 (or less) will finish it.  Win, lose or draw, the extra 2,500 Stevenage supporters attracted to this fixture will go back to watching Man Utd on the telly next week.

For the purposes of this preview I played the game on my latest version of FIFA on my lad’s Xbox.  I can inform you that Stevenage proceeded into the next round of the competition by virtue of a Michael Bostwick pile driver, a tap in from Byron Harrison and a deflected shot from Stacy Long.  Two late goals from Victor Anichebe and Phil Neville had the heart fluttering, but the Boro hung on for the vital win.

The Chairmen

At the helms of Stevenage and Everton are, respectively, Phil Wallace and Bill Kenwright.  Both chairmen can claim to have played major parts in luring highly successful managers away from Preston North End.  Unlike David Moyes however, Graham Westley has eyebrows that are visible to the naked eye.

The Managers

Both Graham Westley and Roberto Martinez have, at earlier stages in their careers, managed other football teams.  Martinez has an international pedigree having spent two seasons at League of Wales side Swansea City.  Both managers like to see their teams score more goals than the opposition and both can claim to speak English as a second language.

Our last meeting

We last met in the Capital One Cup at Goodison Park on 28 August 2013, with Everton winning 2-1 after extra time.  My dodgy internet feed of Al Jazeera TV kept buffering, but it looked as if the winning goal came from Leo Sayer.

Facts and figures

Should he play, Leighton Baines will have the best haircut seen in Stevenage since the brief time that John Cooper Clarke lived in the town.

Danger men

Ross Barkley is the undoubted danger man for Everton, being that rarest of players; an Englishman who can pass the ball.  However, his injury has ruined this part of my preview so I’ll go with Kevin Mirallas as he’s got the same first name as Kevin Keegan.  And he tried to chop Luis Suarez in two at Goodison earlier this season.  I would have said Gareth Barry, but I’m not that fucking stupid.  For Stevenage, it’s hard to look past Simon Heslop, who made a teenager cry last weekend.  In fact, this could explain young Barkley’s exclusion from the Everton side.

Coincidentally….

….both teams can boast continental loanees.  Everton presently benefit from the services of Barcelona’s Spanish midfielder Gerard Deulofeu, whereas QPR’s Bruno Andrade sometimes takes a stroll down the wing for Stevenage.  Sometimes he takes the ball with him.

The Chelsea connection

Everton’s number 17 Romelu Lukaku is presently on loan from the west London club, whereas at least 15% of Stevenage’s support will be paying more attention to the score coming in from Stamford Bridge by checking their smart phones at every opportunity.  Being Chelsea supporters, it will take them until half time before they realise that their team isn’t playing until Sunday.

FA Cup pedigree

The Boro haven’t gone further than the 5th Round of the cup, at which stage they undeservedly lost to an ungracious Tottenham side in 2012.  Everton on the other hand have won the cup on five occasions, most recently in 1995.  Surprisingly for a manager with such a wonderful track record, the FA Cup was one of the trophies that eluded David Moyes in his time on Merseyside.

Hooligan watch

Scousers are the friendliest and funniest people in the world.  Everyone says so.  Likewise, opposition fans can be assured of a friendly welcome from the Stevenage supporters, especially as our hooligan firm is fairly inactive at the moment due to them both being banned from all home games for the rest of the season.  Therefore, the chances of a tear up are minimal.  Should there be trouble, the constabulary are trying to encourage hooligans to carry this out within the safe confines of The Granby which, quite frankly, could do with the excitement.

In summary, I’m expecting a full blooded 90 minutes of cup football, which will ultimately lead to one side progressing to the round of 16.  I’m also expecting that team to be Stevenage.

Forza Boro!!!





The Magic Numbers

4 10 2013

The Manager’s Guide to Statistics – by Graham Westley

A self-help pamphlet produced in association with the League Managers Association

Hello fellow managers.  My name is Graham Westley.  You may remember me from managing such football teams as Stevenage Borough, Preston North End, and Stevenage.  People ask me what the key to my immeasurable success is, to which I reply that success is in fact measurable, as evidenced by my shed load of honours and my Bentley Continental.  Once they’ve thought about this and rephrased the question, I always credit statistics as being the cornerstone of any success I have had or will undoubtedly have in the future. 

Statistics are all around us, ranging from the world of high finance to the pleasures of the Miss World contest.  However, a recent poll by the League Managers Association recognised that only 5.43% of managers use statistics effectively.  I am pleased to report that I am 20% of that total (of 5.43%).  The LMA has therefore asked me to write this self-help pamphlet, which will allow you to become best friends with the world of statistics.  So let’s get started with some questions (answers are given at the bottom of the pamphlet):

Q1.  You take over an ailing League 1 football club that has been through a significant period of mismanagement.  The previous manager has lost 37.5% of all league games before the chairman has finally seen sense and shown him the door.  You take over and, in your first 15 league games in charge, you lose 60% of them.  Who is the better manager?

Q2. Your star international striker scores 7 goals in 42 league appearances for the club.  This is a return of one goal every six games or, as us statisticians like to call it, a strike rate of 14.28%.  Is this good enough?  What actions should one take as a manager (of an ailing League 1 football club)?

Q3. Your injured centre half was bought by the previous manager.  You find out that he is earning 17.23% above the median wage for footballers at the club.  He is also earning 5.68% more than the next highest earner.  What should you do?

Q4.  Your team has a fixture away to your former football club.  An analysis of the four previous fixtures between the two clubs reveals that your team has only obtained 16.67% of the maximum available points on offer.  Your opponents have walked away with 66.67% of the points.  How do you make this work to your advantage?

A1.  You are obviously the greater manager.  The first lesson with statistics is that they can betray you (much like that girl you fell in love with on the Shangri-La Holiday Camp in Clacton during the long hot summer of 1985).  By understanding this, you are able to justify yourself should tricky questions be asked.  For example, one could assert that the squad one has inherited is young or lacking in numbers.  Or one could argue that the wage bill needs to come down before players of the required quality can be brought in.  By making such robust claims, one is able to head these statistics off at the pass.  The intelligent man (or, God help us, woman) on the terraces will then understand where one is coming from.

A2.  League 1 sides cannot hope to compete when their star striker has such a poor return.  You should try to sell him for an unrealistic valuation without hesitation and, if that fails, loan him out to one of your competitors in League 1.  You should then replace him in the team with the young lad you’ve got from Morecambe who, if you ignore last season’s statistics, has a strike rate of 21.05% in League 2.  Should your loaned-out striker score in his first game for his adoptive team, don’t worry because statistics will tell you that he won’t score again until game 7.

A3.  This is a no-brainer.  Even without seeing him play you realise that he’s old, shit and unsellable.  Your only option is to heap further discredit on the previous administration by telling the press just how much he earns.  This works 100% of the time.

A4.  Despite what I said about statistics sometimes betraying you, they also never lie.  16.67% of the maximum of 3 points on offer equates to 0.5 points.  As no football team has ever (to my knowledge) come away from a football match with 0.5 points, it will be a minor miracle if your team get any points from the fixture in question.  You should point this out to the press, and make them know that your opponents are assured of at least 2 points from the fixture based on their previous 66.67% return from previous results.  Nothing can change this destiny.

So now that you know how they work, it is your job as football league managers to go out there and statisticise, which is a word I am lobbying to get into the Oxford English Dictionary.

What others have said about this pamphlet:

“I now have a 200% greater desire to kick Westley up the arse” – Lee Clark, Birmingham City

“I’ve never read so much bollocks” – Karl Robinson, MK Dons

“100% fantastic” – Dino Maamria, Stevenage

Other self-help pamphlets available from the LMA:

The manager’s guide to strict timekeeping – Sir Alex Ferguson

The manager’s guide to social democracy – Paolo Di Canio

 





Graham Westley’s Clockwork Orange

30 08 2013

brilliant orange
Andrew Collins’ assorted memoirs recounting his times flirting between being mediocre versions of a music journalist/reviewer of television programmes/disc jockey/contestant on Telly Addicts tells us at least one thing: the fact that you’ve got something to say doesn’t necessarily mean that what you have to say is meaningful or even slightly interesting. That never stopped Mr Collins in his pursuit of boring the nation, and it never stopped the slavering dogs who bought his books in the (forlorn) hope of reading a seedy tale about the Inspiral Carpets and Noel Edmonds. Similarly, I have nothing worthwhile to tell you this week but, taking young Andrew’s dictum to heart, I shall now fill the internet equivalent of dead air with my own personal self-important ennui.

I signed off my last post by telling you that I’d be touring the Low Countries over the course of the summer. I learnt many things over the course of this expedition. One particular highlight was realising that the fans of Zulte Waregem sing “Zulte, there it is” in the same way that some of us praise our very own Robin Van Shrooty. However, my favourite part of the trip was the guided tour of the Amsterdam ArenA, home of arguably the greatest team in mainland Europe, Ajax. Despite being a relatively new venue for the club, the ArenA’s inner sanctum was burgeoning with Ajax’s history and roll call of world class players: Neeskens, Rijkaard, Rep, Haan, Bergkamp, Seedorf, Van Basten and, err, Luis Suarez.

I don’t intend to patronise you with a history lesson, but I feel the need to set the scene (just don’t be patronised by it). Back in the 60s Ajax were minnows within Europe. The Dutch national team was stuck in the footballing dark ages with little hope of winning anything. That all changed with the introduction of Total Football; a concept so seminal that within a few years Ajax had won the European Cup three times in a row and Holland appeared in – and probably deserved to win – two successive World Cup finals. The architects of this new way of playing were the genius coach of Ajax, Rinus Michels, and his brilliant protégé, Johan Cruyff. Total Football was focussed on the team collective, with each player in the team able to adapt to – and play in – his team mates’ positions during the course of the match.

So where do we come in? It was only on the journey back from Notts County that I considered some parallels with our own fair club. Having outclassed and outplayed the league’s oldest club, it struck me that this had been achieved by playing a defender as our number 9, whilst at the same time employing a forward at left back. I thought back to the number of positions Darius has already played in this season and lost count. In the old days Shrooty would have been described as “versatile” and would have got himself into Bobby Robson’s 1986 or 1990 World Cup squads due to his ability to play wide, through the middle or up front, but at Stevenage we take this for granted.

Now I know that this may be some distance from the original template of Total Football, but it at least shows the flexibility of our management team and its willingness to look at alternative solutions to problems. Problems such as how to get the best out of a squad of players when resources are tight and purse strings are tied. We may not have a Cruyff-like figure within our squad, but Graham Westley’s teams have historically defined the term “team ethic”, working collectively to outwit opponents. It is through this that a small provincial unfashionable club like ours has been dragged by the scruff of its neck out of non-league football on an extremely tight budget and is now competing with the big boys with larger fan bases and much larger financial resources. I’m aware that some of Graham’s detractors would have him down as more of a Bert Van Marwijk character with his big and strong players physically intimidating opposition teams into submission, but surely there’s a case to argue that he’s the Rinus Michels of League 1? Or to argue that this team ethic and the ability to put square pegs in round holes is a blueprint for a 21st Century Total Football. Or did I subliminally ingest all that “tobacco” smoke in my wanderings around The Dam?

Next week, I shall tell you why Chris Day is better than Sepp Maier.

Disclaimer: no drugs were consumed whilst writing this article. A couple of glasses of Heineken were drunk, but only because the author hasn’t been able to find an outlet for Oranjeboom since 1985.





Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before

24 05 2013

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Thank fuck that’s over.  Actually, it was over four weeks ago but I’ve since been drowning my sorrows in cheap bottles of cava whilst listening to Bonnie Prince Billy.  Yes, it really was that bad, hence this anachronistic end of season review.  Less of a rollercoaster of a season, more of a coach tour around the Low Countries with Keith Chegwin and the cast of TOWIE.

Whenever I think back to the architect of our second season in Division 3, I can’t help but be reminded of the Spitting Image caricature of John Major; somewhat clueless but ultimately a nice fella, pushing peas around a plate and trying to work out the best way to defeat Swindon Town.  Early on, unfortunately, Smithy’s pea pushing invariably resulted in a big useless broad bean occupying the considerable space between the midfield peas and the attack.  Regular readers of this blog will now start to harp on that I’m once again singling out big Pat Agyemang for special treatment.  Well fuck you.  Pat has given me 50% of my material this season.  This is, in effect, the blog that Pat inspired.

So let’s deconstruct the season:

The first two months: dull, uninspiring and forgetful, although ultimately successful.

The next five months: memorable for its dullness, interspersed with truly dreadful individual and team performances.

The last month: a bit of a mixture of the first seven months, without the success of the first two months.

Concentrating on the time since Graham Westley returned to the club, I’m truly relieved that there was no change in our performances.  I’m truly grateful that we continued to be shit.  I’m truly grateful Swindon took us apart again.  I’m truly grateful that Graham got to see that it wasn’t motivation that was the problem.  It wasn’t tactics that were the problem.  It was the players that were the problem.  And thankfully he is already showing some of them the door.  (Having said all that, the crap tactics and the lack of motivation under Smith were also problems but let’s put that to one side for the sake of my argument that the players that Smith – and Leon Hunter – brought in just weren’t up to it).

Not only have the majority of Smith’s acquisitions proved to be technically poor, there just didn’t seem to be the win at all costs team mentality that we came to expect under Westley.  There seemed little that bonded “the group”.  This was apparent during the lap of appreciation at the end of the last match of the season.

I personally didn’t take to any of the new players.  I could find little that made me emotionally attached to them in the way that I took pleasure in seeing the development of Mousinho; of Beardo; of Stacy.  Some of Westley’s class of 2011/12 weren’t League 1 players, but they made up for it with their determination and desire to be the best they could be and their ultimate bonding as a team of footballers.  I could identify none of this latter trait in Smith’s inductees to the club.  Sure, I voted for James Dunne as player of the season, but if he left tomorrow I wouldn’t miss him.  Not in the way that I’ve missed Joel or Lawrie.  In fact, not at all.  I think Marcus Haber has worked his arse off this season and I was disappointed to see that he’s been put on the transfer list, but I will probably get over that disappointment by the time I get to the end of this sentence.  See!  I told you.

So Graham is left in a somewhat absurd position.  Having left for pastures new he’s now left in the unenviable position of rebuilding a side both he and his successor dismantled.  And many of the existing squad are on lengthy contracts.  But I already have faith in our new acquisitions, not least because it’s Graham at the helm and Graham that has brought them to the club.

And with that I wish you all a happy close season.  I will be taking the family on a sedate tour around the Low Countries during the summer (I kid you not).  I just fucking hope I don’t bump into Keith Chegwin.








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