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Westley in quit threat

EXCLUSIVE!!!! The future of Farnborough Town Football Club is in serious jeopardy this week after chief Graham Westley gave the biggest possible hint that he will leave at the end of the season.

In a staggering confessional statement released to the News on Wednesday, Westley admitted that he would have to go elsewhere to fulfil his powerful ambitions to climb up the football ladder as owner of a professional club.

And he also states that his company, the AIMITA Corporation, will sponsor the club for one FINAL season.

In a nutshell, if Farnborough Town do gain promotion to the Football League this season, Westley is not expected to be there to see it!

Westley has had to endure three years of struggle with Rushmoor Borough Council and various other authorities in a bid to move the club from its Cherrywood Road base into a new multi-purpose all-seater stadium.

Now his lack of support from both Rushmoor Council chiefs and official bodies looks to have taken its toll, even though Westley has vowed to upgrade the AIMITA Stadium to Football League standard in time for the April deadline.

The news will come as a crushing blow to Farnborough Town supporters, who firmly believed that Westley was there to stay, especially after he unveiled development plans for the stadium and signed an influx of top quality players to take Farnborough to the very top of the non-League pyramid.

Westley has, however, denied that the club's future is in the balance — vowing to leave it in good hands, with new owners and league graded ground in place come next summer.

In his shocking statement, he says: "Bearing in mind that the club has not got any realistic chance of a new stadium now, the third division will probably be as far as it can go.

"I see, right now, that I will have to move on to achieve my ultimate ambitions but to leave the club with strong new owners, a league graded ground, and league status would be a fantastic sign off.

"There comes a time to deliver and everybody at the club knows that this is a great opportunity. Who knows, if we do and the new owners are strong enough, we may even be able to go further."

Westley saved Farnborough Town from certain bankruptcy three years ago this summer when taking over the reins as chairman and owner.

Since then, with his financial backing and strong leadership skills, the club's fortunes have been turned around completely after claiming the Ryman League premier division title in 2000/01 and finishing seventh in the Nationwide Conference last season.

The current squad of players is by far the best the club has ever had and there are real hopes this year that Boro can put their ground grading development to good use by earning promotion to the Football League.

But the problem with the location and facilities available at the AIMITA Stadium has never left his side and have become an increasing burden on his hopes and dreams of promoting the club to a higher level.

Attempts to groundshare with Woking, Aldershot and Kingstonian have fallen flat, leaving Westley disillusioned and with no option but to upgrade the ground to the minumum specified standard as a short-term measure.

Rushmoor councillor David Clifford, who has worked closely with Graham Westley and the Farnborough Town supporters on the issue of a possible new stadium, says he is disappointed at Westley's decision but refuses to accept that Rushmoor Council have played a part in it.

He said: "We have supported Graham Westley and Farnborough Town Football Club 120 per cent. We have met Graham on several occasions, we have given him positive advice, talked to him about business plans, upped security at the current ground and worked very closely with the supporters throughout.

"In fact we have done more than we are obliged to do.

"We had a very interesting meeting with the Supporters' working party a few weeks ago and got a lot done. We are very enthusiastic about our football clubs and want, as much as they do, every success for Farnborough Town.

"But we are constrained, however, because Rushmoor is a small borough which has two successful football clubs. It's a real challenge for us as councillors and officers to keep everyone happy.

"I'm very disappointed at his decision. He has been a great manager and has done a lot for the club in his three years there. But we have no control over Graham's decision to leave and we certainly haven't given him any reason to go."

l After making his bold and sad statement, Westley's first job now is to complete his hunt for a goalkeeper.

With Steve Farrelly gone, Tony Pennock unavailable at a staggering asking price of £75,000 and Darren Bonfield not likely to figure in Westley's plans next season, goalkeeping coach Graham Benstead is the only man between the sticks left at the club.

Attempts to lure Phil Smith from Dover look dead and buried but Westley is expected to make one, maybe even two, signings in the next few days.

l Dont forget the club are holding working parties on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 10am, to help maintain the ground for the coming season. Any help would be appreciated.


Charlotte Neal
Chief Reporter (Aldershot)
Joshua Smith
Farnborough Reporter
Jon Couch
Sport Editor
Stephen Lloyd
Fleet & Yateley Reporter
Ros Collins
Junior News & Mail
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