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Westley's former boss pays tribute

The advice from one of the most respected managers in world football would have been music to the ears of Graham Westley and his players when they travelled to Newcastle last week, writes ALEX NAREY.

The advice from one of the most respected managers in world football would have been music to the ears of Graham Westley and his players when they travelled to Newcastle last week, writes ALEX NAREY.

Sir Bobby Robson has, quite literally, been there, seen it and smoked the cigar on more than one occasion. However, there is perhaps an argument that the Boro chief has missed a trick by ignoring the advice of a man who knows one of two things about trips to north London in search of an FA Cup giant killing act.

In 1993, Dave Russell, a former manager of Westley at Walton & Hersham, led his Marlow side — then playing their football in the Isthmian Premier League — into the third round of the cup where they met Aresenal's fiercest rivals, Totenham Hotspur. The fact that his side was on the end of a 5-1 defeat plays little significance today, but the feeling at the draw, however, is something that remains firmly in Russell's mind.

"We were last out of the hat," he said. "I remember seeing Marlow and thinking ‘All the big boys have gone' but then Spurs came out and it was just an incredible feeling. I have always been a Spurs fan and used to go and see them when I was younger".

Russell, 47, who now lives in Marlow and works as a bricklayer, believes that for Boro's players the last few weeks will have been like something that they could only have dreamt about, saying: "It's an incredible feeling. When I was at Marlow you were talking real bread and butter lads. Some of them were playing park football on a Sunday morning still. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. That is why the players should milk it and drink it as much as they can, because we did. You would have to be mad not to."

The working relationship between the pair at Walton was brief to say the least, due to Westley suffering a broken leg which subsequently ended his playing career. Despite this the manager could see obvious ability in his lively forward. "I always thought that he was a good player. In his day Westley was in high demand.

He would always score goals." However, he admitted that the pair were never the greatest of friends, adding: "We were from totally different sides of the track. I didn't really know him that well to be honest. We crossed a few times as managers but I don't think that we shook hands once."

Despite the difference in character, was there ever anything that led Russell to believe there was a career in management for Westley? "He wasn't really much of a talker," he said. "I never really saw him as someone who would go into management because he would never sit down and pick my brain over it.

Most lads normally talk about it a lot but he never did, but you can only take your hat off to him for what he has achieved."

Russell will also know just how hard the build up to the game will be for the Boro boss, and his players, particularly in the sense that nearly everyone has written them off with little or no chance of gaining anything from the game at Highbury. But he believes Boro will approach the game just as his side did ten years ago, saying: "A lot is down to individuals.

We took our game very seriously and I'm sure Farnborough will be doing the same. You just have to believe in yourself. At the end of the day, they are only human beings - and they are really are just that.

"I remember when we scored our goal at Spurs, there were 3,000 fans going mad. I was running around like a lunatic and from there Gary Mabbutt and Neil Ruddock were having a few problems. My greatest memory though was when I was going through my squad before the game, thinking to myself ‘well who is going to pick up Sheringham, and who can pick up Nayim?' I just sat there laughing to myself about it all."

So what about the ground switch which has caused such a stir? Well, Russell doesn't see a problem there, after Marlow did the same for their big day out. "How can you logistically deal with such a game if your ground capacity is of such a small size? We earned around £100,000 from our game, which ten years ago was a lot of money. I would imagine that they (Boro) are looking at bundles, but why should you not go and have your pay day anyway!"

Irony will always play a part in football, and so it is no surprise to find that Russell also had a brief spell at Arsenal himself in 1976. "I played about four games for their reserves before I suffered a knee problem and could no longer play football at that level."


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