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Graham Westley EXCLUSIVE: The truth behind my Posh sacking

by FLP Guest columnist Graham Westley

I WROTE in this column two weeks ago about my chairman Darragh MacAnthony’s outburst around our club’s performances. My reaction was a positive one and, to be fair, my players won 4-1 at  Colchester that weekend.

People expressed surprise to me this week at my dismissal from Peterborough but, despite my reaction, I wasn’t shocked.

Mine was a short tenure – I lasted just seven months but I did achieve some decent outcomes.

My win record was 44 per cent despite inheriting a team in 18th place which had a strong ‘loss’ record. We had moved into mid-table safety in 14th and became one of the country’s top scoring teams. We enjoyed a strong FA Cup run and took West Brom to penalties in the fourth round.

I had developed and sold Conor Washington to QPR in a sizeable seven-figure deal and received similarly big offers for other players that I felt I had a strong hand in developing.

I had helped Conor and Michael Smith (both Northern Ireland) to full international status and Chris Forrester to a Republic of Ireland squad call-up, and I received a commendation from Barry Fry on the ‘best performance’ in his 20 years at Posh.

There was a tough spell in February/March when we struggled for results with a significant amount of key men absent and after we cashed in on Conor out of necessity.

Our squad was tested and my newness meant that I didn’t really know enough about everybody to get the very best from the team that soon and with so many issues.

But we bounced back and won four of my last eight games and I did blood a lot of novice players in League One which will be great for them in the long-term.

Just last weekend in what turned out to be my final match in charge, we counted under 300 League starts in our onfield 11! That is youth!

So why was I fired?

The chairman did put forward ‘home results’ as a tentative reason on his twitter account. But I think there was a much bigger issue really. I don’t think anybody really failed to understand results.

The facts are that after I worked out my best team early on, I won six on the bounce and was November’s League One Manager of the Month. We were flying.

But the losses of Ben Alnwick, Michael Smith, Gabriel Zakuani, Ricardo Santos, Michael Bostwick, Callum Elder, Chris Forrester, Jermaine Anderson, Lee Angol and Conor Washington for a whole range of reasons but for good chunks of time were, at times, too much for our squad to bear.

With those lads we were strong. Without them, not so strong. We were a small League One club – not Sheffield United, Wigan or Coventry.

The situation was that the chairman was very clear to me that he wants promotion as title-winners next season. So I was very clear with him about what we need and who needs to stay or go. He disagreed with me. It is that simple. That was our big issue.

(Photo by Action Images / Andrew Couldridge)

(Photo by Action Images / Andrew Couldridge)

He believed in certain players that I didn’t believe in and vice-versa. We enjoyed a fantastic rapport but we just couldn’t get over those points of disagreement. At times, I probably argued too hard for my own good.

In the end, the chairman is the boss and his word ends every discussion. I just couldn’t sit back and accept things that I simply didn’t believe in. I wanted to keep lads he wanted out and to cull lads he wanted in.

I did not want to be fired. But nor did I want to keep the job and not deliver the goods. It wasn’t about being a maverick; it was about winning. I wanted to change his mind, not fall out. Darragh has led Posh into the Championship twice and I massively respect that achievement and believe in him. I understand why he trusts his opinion.

I enjoyed working for him and I wouldn’t hesitate to work for him again. I say that sincerely. We had a good relationship and we’ll meet for a drink when he returns to the UK.

But as hard as I tried, I could not give up on one or two key issues that I felt would damage our title chances.

It is never nice to be sacked, but the honest words of thanks from players and staff that you have helped to develop make a huge difference and I have received many of those. I know I made a difference to many developing players and their future success will be part of my legacy at the club.

One lad called to say that my sacking had actually made him realise just how serious the responsibility of being a professional player is.

It had made him realise that things I had tried to get across but that he struggled to accept before my sacking were in fact true. That is positive.

For me now, it is about looking forwards. I left Stevenage at the end of 2014/15 after qualifying for the League Two play-offs for the second time in two seasons in League Two.  I felt that I had done an outstanding job to achieve that result. But to no avail! This year I leave Posh four places higher than when I joined. That might not be mind-blowing but it is progress, especially in the circumstances.

Looking forward, we all hope that our next role is going to be the best job that we have ever done.

Fair play to DMac102; he told me not to hesitate to push people his way for a reference; and I would do that happily. We enjoyed a great rapport and even though we didn’t go on to win promotion together, I honestly don’t believe either of us will be surprised at the other’s next success.

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5 thoughts on “Graham Westley EXCLUSIVE: The truth behind my Posh sacking

  1. Smooth

    Thanks Graham for the job you have done at the Posh. The team was a mess when you took over and you turned them into the best team to watch in the country. I feel sorry for you as we all know the chairman picks the team and signs players he wants to sign regardless of the managers opinion. I know you will have success at whatever club you manage next and I wish you the best of luck

    Yours in Football

    Nick

    Reply
  2. Adi Mowles

    Nick. The best team to watch in the country? I presume you saw us against the baggies at home on TV. I have missed one game all season and and whilst some were enjoyable to watch shortly after Graham’s arrival the past 3 months have been abysmal. Many are now wondering if the good stuff was more down to Grant McCann. Graham is a very personable chap but some of his deluded comments these past few months have had most people bemused and very wary of his ability to take this club forward. Many excuses, not many reasons imo. Good luck to him for the future GW

    Reply
  3. Mark

    Four places rise in seven months with 3 points for a win – deluded I am afraid

    He came with bold ideas of 600 passes and 25 shots a game. In his words he lived in the sky.

    Utter madness; its football, not rocket science. Too many changes mostly his own doing.

    Will he work again in League Football? I for one am not so sure

    Reply
  4. James

    Even though we had some injuries this season, GW still had no excuses for playing people out of position as much as he did. For example we have been lacking a left back since Elder got injured in December. GW moved our right back to left back and played a tall, slow centre back on the right. In essence playing two players out of position. Playing an attacking midfielder (Nabi) who plays behind the strikers, just in front of the back 4 was also very strange.

    I had some fun moments supporting Posh this season, the first half at Coventry and Crewe away were really great to watch but I didn’t believe that he would take us up next season, Darragh has made the right choice. He is learning by his previous mistakes in keeping hold of people too long (Fergie, Robertson) and has acted so that we do not waste another season.

    My first choice is Steve Evans but would be more than happy for Grant McCann to get it.

    Thanks to GW for his hard work this season, I don’t think it failed for the lack of trying – maybe just not the right fit. I’m sure he will do a good job at the next club he goes to, as long as everyone there buys into his long term vision. Good luck to him in his next role.

    Reply

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