SWANNY'S WORLD OF SPORT: Westley had to go, and at least Darragh doesn't dither
First impressions are not always reliable, but in the case of my initial sit-down with Graham Westley they most certainly were.
His self-confidence bordered on arrogance. He was dismissive of alternative views and yet he was strangely persuasive.
I could instantly see why Darragh MacAnthony ignored all available evidence, all the scare stories and all the fans’ fears, and was instead seduced by a man with a gift for gabbing, but not, as it turned out, for developing a winning team.
Westley is not a popular man in football. Tales of alleged unsporting behaviour were easy to find.
Even referees don’t like him, judging by the way a team of soft defenders and non-tackling midfielders has shot to the top of the FA’s ‘Unfair Play League’ this season.
Westley’s first words to me were: ‘so you’re a Westley hater’, which was an exaggeration of my disappointment he’d landed the Posh manager’s job.
Stating my preference for Steve Evans caused him to claim he usually came out on top in meetings with a man now cutting it in the Championship.
A few weeks later I mentioned I found him entertaining, but that I didn’t always agree with him. He looked at me as though I’d just told him I fancied his wife. ‘Why would you not agree with me?’ he replied. And he was serious.
As a journalist I’ll miss him as he provided good copy. As a fan I won’t miss him at all as, after an excellent start in the job, he was presiding over, after creating, a complete mess. One that would take some clearing up if Jose Mourinho decided to see how the other half lived and gave MacAnthony a call.
Westley was always available for the press and always full of chat. But when the excitement of talking to a manager who knew words of more than two syllables wore off, a lot of what he said made little sense.
And I’m not just talking about the ‘I don’t live in the sky, I live in a house’ type-lines that persuaded my favourite Posh fans’ site to start calling him ‘David Brent’ after the delusional character in a Ricky Gervais comedy vehicle.
Westley told me more than once that ‘Posh’s defensive problems were easy to solve’, something I recalled when Ricardo Santos sliced the ball comically into his own net last Saturday. Either the Posh defenders are thick or Westley is not the communicator or the coach he believes he is.
A few weeks ago he gave a motivational speech to the talented City of Peterborough Hockey Club first XI who then lost for the first time at home all season a few days later. David Brent indeed.
I feel like a great cloud has been lifted from the ABAX Stadium. The mood within the club can’t fail to have improved since MacAnthony pulled the trigger on another short-term appointment last weekend.
Sacking Westley was the right decision.
On the face if it seven (soon to be eight) managerial appointments in under 10 years is not a record that reflects well on Posh chairman Darragh MacAnthony.
But it doesn’t tell the whole story.
MacAnthony has been poor at hiring managers (with the honourable exception of Darren Ferguson), but very good at despatching them.
For all his difficulties in picking the right man, at least MacAnthony doesn’t dither when a sacking is required.
Gary Johnson’s (above) Posh team was seventh in League One when he was dismissed, but he was being carried by the Holy Trinity of Boyd, Mclean and Mackail-Smith. MacAnthony acted decisively then and made room for the brilliant second coming of Ferguson.
Regular watchers of that team would accept I’m sure that Johnson wasn’t taking that side up. Ferguson did. It was a brave switch by the chairman, but the right one.
Soon after taking control of the club, MacAnthony despatched Keith Alexander. Alexander was a good man who made great signings for Posh, but would he have encouraged the Holy Trinity to play in such an exciting fashion? I very much doubt it so his dismissal was sound, while the appointment of Ferguson to his first managerial job was inspired.
MacAnthony didn’t dither when Dave Robertson needed sacking after six games this season. Again it was the right call.
But the chairman would save himself a lot of stress by finding someone for a longer stay this time around.