The stories from Graham Westley’s time in charge of Preston North End still fascinate, ten years on from his stint in the Deepdale dugout.
Now, the 55-year-old has gone into depth on his North End tenure with the popular Undr The Cosh podcast - hosted by ex-PNE men Chris Brown and Jon Parkin. It was 13 months in the hotseat for Westley, who joined Preston in January 2012 and was dismissed in February 2013 - following defeat at Yeovil.
Here are six stand out snippets from the almost two-hour long episode, in which Westley addresses some of the big tales from his North End reign.
1. On banishing senior players from first team training
“Preston, when I went in there, were really clear,” said Westley. “They’d come down from the Championship, where the budget was so big and had dropped that much. I think, at the time, with respect to the late Mr Hemmings he’d had some publicized difficulties in the business world and the club needed to cut its cloth. So, I came in at a time where the budget had to do that (drop) and some of the big hitters in there - whether I liked them or not as players - they were going to have to leave the football club. And, my way of dealing with players in those circumstances has always been very straightforward. I am not going to dance around things; I will sit down with people. It is not about whether I fancy you as a player, whether you’ll fit into my style of play or fancy my training regime - nothing like that. You are just going to have to move on because the economics of the situation demand it. And the player isn’t always amenable to what you’re saying. The player doesn’t always want to move on because they love the club and they see you as the problem. But, when I’m having those conversations, I am not the problem; the problem is the club has been relegated and the budget is not there. You can end up at war with a player, because dealing with it openly and honestly doesn’t get you what you’re looking for. In that situation, it was slightly different in that we’d got to the end of the season and a certain group of lads - for one reason or another - were going to move on. Some of the lads were young lads, where bids had come in and they were going to leave the club. The lads who went to the boxing gym - they weren’t there for boxing, they were there for fitness. It was pre-season, it was somewhere for them to train and there was a good coach there who’d do a bit of work with them and keep them fit.”
“In Humey’s case, he went there, but he was on his way out,” said Westley. “He went to Donny I think, at the time. We knew someone was going to take Iain Hume; it was a financial decision. It wasn’t a player decision. I remember, before I took the job at Preston, going to watch a Friday night game. I was at Stevenage at the time and we were playing up here. Preston were playing at home against Yeovil and they won 4-3, playing with a diamond when Phil (Brown) was in charge. Humey played at the top of a diamond; what a player. You watched Humey that night and thought ‘Wow’. I’d come up from League Two and was fearing playing Humey - he ran the show. They scored four, it could’ve been ten and he would’ve been a joy to work with. But, you come in, you’ve got cut your budget and he is a Championship player earning Championship money. With respect, I am not going to talk about the detail of that, but he had to go. Difficult things happen and people’s perception of it, is what it is. Do I think it is right to ostracise people? Not at all, but if you are trying to build a squad, you cannot with 45 people in the training ground. So, if half a dozen are going to be leaving - putting them to one side, being respectful and saying: ‘Look guys, you know what the situation is and you know I’ve got to try and get this group together - I am going to have to find you an arrangement so you are fit for wherever you go’ - I think that is a respectful way of handling people, if you are all grown up about it.” Photo: CameraSport - Ian Cook
3. On his players lifting invisible weights in training
“Again, context,” said Westley. “I think I remember that session and I was at Preston. I think what happened was - I used to do a session with the lads on a Thursday afternoon, with 12.5kg dumbbells. We would do one thousand, and it doesn’t sound like a lot of weight. But, when you are doing one thousand - on your biceps, triceps, shoulders - again, again and again... and most of what we did was game specific movement. People felt the force of it. They would know that, in games, you couldn’t run through a Stevenage arm. We did a lot of work, it was all game specific and the lads all bought into it. When I went to Preston, my 12.5kg dumbbells were missing: ‘They are not here, someone’s taken them...’ I don’t know where they were. We did the session with invisible dumbbells. And because they were invisible, we did two thousand. So, instead of being there for 45 minutes, we were there for 90 minutes and we did an invisible dumbbell session. I didn’t realise, but if you tense your arms while you’re doing it, you actually get quite a good dab on. So we did it and guess what? Next week, the dumbbells were back and we did a 45 minute session, not a 90 minute session. So, who was the winner? I think there is context around everything. Did I do an invisible dumbbell session? Not normally, but if I’ve got to I will and we’ll do two thousand instead of one thousand.” Photo: CameraSport - Chris Vaughan
4. On his PNE team being ‘leaked’ by players before playing Sheffield Wednesday
“It didn’t really have a big impact on me,” said Westley. “It was obviously disappointing, when someone from the opposite dugout comes into your dugout and is laughing at you. We had done them 5-1 that season, Sheffield Wednesday, when I was at Stevenage. So, it was the same season and later on Graham Westley brings his Preston team to Sheffield and Sheffield do us two-nil. We got well beaten, live on Sky, so I guess their guys were walking into our dugout going: ‘That’s one back at you’. Fair enough. And then they say that they knew our team and that our players had told them our team yesterday. I let it be known that that had been said to me. It didn’t make it true, but later on I was told that there was a cup of coffee the day before and the team was put across to certain Sheffield people. It is what it is, isn’t it? From the Preston fans’ point of view, which is probably the people I was talking to, it was: ‘This is what I’m dealing with’. Is it right that our team gets told to Sheffield Wednesday the day before a game, over a cup of coffee? It was put across to me as though it was done maliciously - and yeah, I didn’t like it. I obviously got to a point where I believed, from my side, that it was the case. If they were winding me up and I was mugged off and made to look stupid... have you ever been nutmegged? It happens, doesn’t it? “