‘I just got it wrong’ - former Preston and Stevenage boss reveals biggest regret from ill-fated Deepdale reign

Graham Westley spent 13 months in charge of Preston following Phil Brown’s sacking in December 2011
Former Preston boss Graham WestleyFormer Preston boss Graham Westley
Former Preston boss Graham Westley

Former Preston North End manager Graham Westley has revealed what his biggest mistake was during his ill-fated 13-month spell in charge at Deepdale.

It wasn’t his failure to sit down with his senior players to ‘work out’ what was going wrong - something which long-serving midfielder Barry Nicholson had apparently suggested shortly before the axe came in February 2013

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Rather, Westley conceded in his appearance on the ‘Under the Cosh’ podcast, it was his decision to overload his squad with senior players and strong characters which proved costly.

That process began in the summer of 2012 with a massive overhaul of the first-team squad, after the Lilywhites finished their League One season in 15th place - five places below the 10th-placed spot Preston occupied when Westley was appointed in January of that year.

The likes of John Mousinho, David Buchanan, John Welsh and Richard Wright were all brought in in an attempt to get the club back to the Championship.

Yet things soon began to unravel as an inconsistent Preston struggled to keep pace with their rivals. And as things turned from bad to worse, Westley lost his job following a 3-1 defeat to Yeovil on February 12, 2013. At the time Preston were five points above the relegation zone and with just one league win since November.

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The former Stevenage boss departed with a record of P62 W16 D23 L23, giving him a win percentage of 25.8 - the second lowest percentage of any PNE manager since Tommy Docherty in 1981.

So when asked on the ‘Under the Cost’ podcast whether he wished he had done anything differently, Westley admitted there was one thing he looked back on with regret.

He said: ‘As people get to know people, they get a flavour of what they’re dealing with.

‘I’m not stupid, I’ve managed a lot of people, a lot of situations and I’ve had a good degree of success.That’s not bragging, that’s just a fact. So I know what I’m doing. Nobody knows all the answers and everybody gets things wrong.

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‘I remember Barry Nicholson saying to me, close to the end of my time at Preston, “I’ve not got to know you brilliantly well, I’ve been injured and I’ve not been around the team that much, but I think you’ve made a really big mistake.Because there’s so many senior players here, I feel as if you should have sat more of us down and worked out what we thought was wrong”. And he said “I think if you had done that, you would have got a lot more people on board with you”.

‘I said to Barry at the time, I said: “You know what, I get that”. But the team had lost 12 in 13 when I arrived and a lot of the players who were there had to be regarded as part of the problem. I’m looking at those players when I walked in the door, number one thinking “you need to get off your high horses some of you. I don’t need to listen to you. If you had enough about you, some of you would be sorting the results out”.

‘I was thinking that. But, number two, I knew that a lot of those lads had to go.

‘Now my agenda was set, a lot of those lads had to go - economics dictated. That was difficult that stage.I’ve no regrets there.

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‘Where I got it wrong at Preston was, in that summer, I went out and signed John Mousinho to be my captain. I went out and signed John Welsh - captain of Tranmere, good player, played in the Championship. He was available, I could get him and brought him in.

‘I’ve got Welshy and Mousinho for the same position and I did it in too many areas of the squad. I was thinking “build up a squad with two players in every position. I was going to put the captain’s armband on Mousinho and I’m going to leave Welshy kind of sitting on the sideline. And I just got it wrong.

‘I had Lairdy (Scott Laird) at left-back and I had Dave Buchanan. They were both more than capable of playing promotion-winning football in League One. Both of them. But I only had one shirt to give out.

‘Buchanan didn’t want to be playing bit-parts on the sidelines and that’s where I got it wrong at Preston. I had too much of that and then I had some strong characters. Like I said, I recruit strong characters but I had too many strong characters who weren’t getting enough game time off me.

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‘To say they went the wrong way is unfair on them. They weren’t with me because I wasn’t with them. I loved them, I tried to love them, but I couldn’t give them what they wanted, which was a regular first-team shirt. And I think that’s where I lost my way at Preston. It’s the biggest mistake I made.’

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