Graham Westley arrived in controversial circumstances in February 2003, having just led Farnborough to the third round of the FA Cup. As chairman/manager of Farnborough Town, his defection to Stevenage Borough was bound to cause problems in relinquishing control at Cherrywood Road. The transition of power, therefore, wasn’t especially smooth.
Graham Westley: The First Spell
When Westley arrived at Boro’, he inherited a side looking certs for relegation; Boro’ lying rock bottom one month prior to his arrival. The precarious position had seen the end of Wayne Turner’s reign at the club. Bringing seven players with him from Farnborough only heightened animosity towards Stevenage. Westley’s job to keep Boro’ in the Conference, however, was the only thing he focused upon… and he delivered.
By the end of the season, Boro’ were comfortably mid-table and it was thanks mainly to a record-equalling six wins on the bounce in March.
After finishing 8th in his first full season in charge, he almost took Boro’ into the Football League in 2004-5. Carlisle United were to deny Westley a chance to lead us into the League, however, after a heartbreaking playoff final defeat. Failure, then, to reach the playoffs in 2005-6 meant that Westley didn’t fulfil ambitions of League football inside three years at the club. As a result, Boro’ did not renew Westley’s contract in summer 2006.
Graham Westley: Take Two
In the summer of 2008, however, Graham Westley made his return as manager at Broadhall Way. Peter Taylor had left following his brief stint, so Boro’ moved to hire someone who could ‘hit the ground running’ in the Blue Square Premier. His arrival heralded a flurry of new signings and, also, the prospect of what was an intriguing second spell at the club; one he so nearly took to promotion in 2005. And he nearly did it at the first attempt; only for extra time heartache in the playoff semi-final against Cambridge.
He did lead the team to the 2009 FA Trophy, though; our second Trophy triumph in three seasons.
In 2010, Westley made sure his name would be permanently recorded in the history books at Broadhall Way. In masterminding a superb charge to the Blue Square Premier title, he led Boro’ into the Football League for the first time. He also oversaw the club’s rise through League Two in 2010-1; a season that included the defeat of Newcastle in the FA Cup. Midway through 2011-2, meanwhile, he had Boro’ in the League One playoff places midway too.
Those achievements caught the attention, however, and Preston North End came calling in early 2012. After making so much history at the Lamex, Graham Westley moved on again.
Graham Westley: Three. A Magic Number?
It’s either surprising or unsurprising, but that didn’t mean the end of his association with the club. In fact, he made a second return to Boro’ in March 2013; replacing Gary Smith. Although we lost our place in League One, Westley’s leadership almost secured us an immediate return. Yet, getting us into the League Two playoffs wasn’t enough in 2015 and Westley was out the door yet again that summer.