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GRAHAM Westley has sensationally quit Farnborough Town and taken up the manager's job at Stevenage Borough - just three days after the club enjoyed their finest hour in the FA Cup at Highbury.

FURIOUS fans are attempting to piece together the shattered future of Farnborough Town Football Club after controversial chief Graham Westley sensationally upped sticks and joined lowly rivals Stevenage Borough — just two days after the club enjoyed its finest hour.

Supporters are up in arms after Westley walked out on the club on Monday night, seemingly taking money from the Arsenal venture and a number of key players with him.

Although Westley has written off the club's debts in his three-and-a-half year tenure at Cherrywood Road, the move has now left the club with a bank account of nil with no manager, no structure and no definite future.

Hard-working football secretary Vince Williams has been appointed General Manager for the interim period and now has the unenviable task of re-building the club and ridding it of the ghost of Westley, almost single-handed.

Westley explained his reasons for leaving just minutes before he was formally appointed manager of Stevenage by their chairman Phil Wallace on Monday afternoon, to the disgust of fans, who have been "gifted" his controlling 51 per cent of shares in the club.

Westley said: "I've enjoyed my time at Farnborough but I feel that I need to move on now and that I need to concentrate on football management which is where my ambitions lie.

"Doing two jobs is unrealistic at this level and above, especially when you run another business too.

"I've invested much of my life into my dual role at the club in the last three-and-a-half years and I hope that the successes which have come about have made the fans happy and have earned me some respect. When I arrived in 1999 the club was on its knees.

"As I depart, I believe that the club is in fantastic condition relative to the starting point. It has won things, enjoyed the highs of the Cup in the fourth round, should finally be close to being debt and liability-free and has a great chance of pushing for the play-offs.

"With a strong local leader it may even be able to convert the current board's spadework into a new ground in the next few years."

Westley then went onto explain how he proposes to leave his 51 per cent of the club's shares.

"As soon as it is practicable, unless a better solution emerges for the club, it is currently my intention to gift the shares that I own to the other existing shareholders (the club's fans) and leave the club to build on the foundations which have been laid," he added.

"I hope that everybody will be able to recognise the footballing good will in this."

But Westley's plan has one major flaw — a flaw which could scupper both his ability to rid himself of Farnborough Town and take over as boss of Stevenage.

People holding shares in 1999 were required to hand them over to Westley as a condition of his takeover, so who he is referring to, is unclear.

Also, no-one has seen anything of a share register from the time. At least one significant shareholder, former chairman Tony Alper, has died, so that immediately changes things.

Westley has also been prevented from maintaining the shares in one club while managing another, so if no-one actually accepts his "gift," Westley will be lumbered and may be forced to sell.

As it happens, with a bank account showing nil, it will make it nigh on impossible for the club to entice a new manager and players to the ranks as paying wages would be extremely difficult with limited income.

To sell, Westley would then need to make the club commercially attractive in a bid to entice new owners, and in its current state, the club is hardly that.

Westley has allegedly tried, and failed, to keep his fingers in both pies by attempting to hand his shares over to his wife Clare, but, like the attempted conquests of Reading, Derby and Oxford by the Maxwell family in the late 1980s, the FA wouldn't allow it.

And then there's the players.

Because Westley had sole access to the club's finances along with members of his family and business partners who acted as the "board of directors," no-one else knew exactly what contracts they were on and whether any get-out clauses existed.

Westley made no secret of his desire to leave Farnborough, citing his frustration at not having secured a permanent Football League graded ground to play on and consequently stating his intention to pull the Aimita Corporation out of any tie-up come May.

It is understood Westley had a meeting with every one of the players on Monday evening when he informed them of his decision.

Seven of the players: Micky Warner, Justin Gregory, Nathan Bunce, Steve Watson, Danny Carroll, Gary Holloway and Rocky Baptiste were pulled in a good two hours before and it is understood that these are the players Westley wants to take with him to Broadhall Way.

Surprisingly, Westley did not call up keeper Tony Pennock and defender Barry Laker — both are expected to stay with the club for the time being, and, along with the rest of squad, will report for training as usual on Thursday night and travel up to Telford for the fourth round of the FA Trophy on Saturday.

But Westley has already been dealt one major blow when Carroll refused to make the move to Hertfordshire because of his full-time job as a PE teacher.

Carroll said: "Graham's announcement was a big surprise, especially as it come just three days after the Highbury experience.

"That said, we all knew it was going to happen as he has said it for along time. We just didn't expect it so soon.

"Stevenage are full time but I can't do full time football, it's as simple as that. I'll be reporting for training tomorrow night but I don't know who's taking it and I'm expecting to play against Telford on Saturday without knowing who the manager is going to be and who my team-mates will be.

"There are a lot of rumours among the players but all the reports are contradictory so I honestly do not know who is staying and who is leaving.

"It's a period of uncertainty at the moment but I can see myself being happy at Farnborough once things are settled."

One player with his future well and truly up in the air is full back Warner, whose day job as Farnborough Town's Commercial Executive also faces an uncertain future.

Warner is believed to have been asked to join Westley at Stevenage but it is unclear in which capacity. He said on Wednesday: "I'm due to meet up with Graham today to discuss my future. There are a lot of things up in the air at the moment and I'm not going to rush into anything.

"It's a very difficult situation for everyone at the moment but I have to do what's best for me and my family and with the club's future uncertain, I have a lot of thinking to do."

Mr Williams, the newly-appointed General Manager, is now receiving the full backing of the fans not to back down and take the club into a new era.

He is expected to be invited to a forthcoming meeting of the Friends of Farnborough Town, who are talking about getting together and discussing the way forward.

Supporter's Club chairman Bob Perry added: "We understood he would leave at the end of the season. We had geared ourselves up for that, we had all accepted it.

"What has surprised and disappointed me is the timing of it and the way it was handled. It has left us all shell-shocked.

"Everything is so up in the air, I don't know what's going on. The Friends of Farnborough Town may meet up again eventually but it's too early to say when and what it is that can actually be discussed.

"I do, however, see a future for Farnborough Town in one guise or another and I will do anything in my power to help that happen."

Speaking after the decision, Mr Williams said: "This is a sad day for the club. I for one appreciate the efforts and success that Graham Westley has brought to the club.

"I believe that Graham is leaving the club in a most honourable way, the club is in a much healthier state following his leadership.

Westley parted with a few final words towards the new man in charge, which read: "Many reporters wrongly damned Vince after I explained the weaknesses in our infrastructure and his experience in relation to the Arsenal game.

"But let me leave nobody in any doubt; he has been a fantastic servant to me.

"His hard work, professionalism and flexibility have been vital ingredients and I wouldn't hesitate to employ him again."


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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