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Saturday, 28 December 2013

The Inside Line: Stevenage (29/12/2013)

For the second of our Christmas fixtures, Stu Radnedge tasks to Stevenage fan Steve Watkins about their remarkable rise through the divisions and their chances this season. Thanks to both for their efforts.


Stevenage have enjoyed a somewhat stellar rise into the football league. How has life been for a 'Boro fan since the clubs inception in 1976, considering there have been some notable memories in such a short space of time?! (FA Trophy victories at Wembley, Play-off semi finals last year, for instance)
In a word – Amazing. Since those very modest days of the mid-seventies, I guess it would be fair to say that any long-time Stevenage fan would have enjoyed what has come their way. From roped off pitches, a return to Broadhall Way (now The Lamex), and a steady climb through the pyramid. Then came the FA Cup wins, and again, steady progression with some epic and memorable scalps collected along the way. The disappointment of not getting promotion after winning the conference in 95-96 was painful, and it took what seemed an age to get over. But the past 5-6 years have been nothing short of sensational with two Wembley wins (and one defeat), and two promotions, which so nearly could have been three, having reached the Lge1 play-offs as well. Expectations have always been high as a result, but perhaps a degree of realism is starting to creep back into the fans way of thinking these days.


Stevenage dropped the Borough in their name in 2010. The potential changing of the club's name is something that is currently causing outrage in Hull. What was it like for your fans, was there much reaction or protest?
I don’t think it bothered too many at the time, and certainly hasn’t since. The club have always kept the nickname ‘The Boro’ and the fans are more than happy with that. The chairman, at the time explained the reasons for the change, and it has been accepted. 



Graham Westley leads Stevenage and is in his third spell at the club. Is there something of a romanticism about his tenure at the club? Would you attribute the clubs rise through the leagues to his leadership.
It would be hugely unfair to forget the work of previous managers, most notably Paul Fairclough, who arguably moved the club further than Westley did. But, there is no taking away from Westley that his success has been more clinical and at a higher level. As for romance, not so sure that comes into it. Unbelievably, there are still many that do not accept him as manager, despite the success. Some have even stayed away. They don’t know what they have missed! 


In the middle of the festive period, both teams will be looking at this encounter as a bit of a six-pointer.  You had a notable win against Peterborough at the end of November (0-1) - was this victory an off day for the home side or was it a deserved three points?  What has this season been like for your team as a whole?
Difficult to say. Peterborough were poor for sure. But Stevenage did play well that day and thoroughly deserved the points. It always seems to be the case though that when Stevenage win like that, it is always down to the opposition being poor.

I prefer to think that Stevenage have a knack of making teams look poor, and are capable of making them pay for it. That said, it does take a certain type of performance, and player, to do that, and where Westley used to be so good in getting it from his sides, the current crop have not always bought into that notion. 

There are signs that it is starting to come together though. The next month is so important as all the games are against sides in and around the lower reaches of the league. A lot of 6-pointers in there. By the end of January we will have a better idea I think of just where this current squad of players are headed.


Who in your side will cause City some problems? And who in our line up do you most fear?
Luke Freeman is a flair player who is more than capable of turning a defender inside out. He is in a good run of form at the moment, and will probably be watched very closely. Michael Doughty can run a game from midfield and in Filipe Morais there is a maverick who can be so good to watch. But Francois Zoko is the obvious dangerman, and with or without the ball, he will cause problems, and if he gets the service, he will score. 
I would have thought that Sam Baldock would be a huge threat to Stevenage, and he is the player that perhaps most would be familiar with in this neck of the woods after his time spent at MK.  Marlon Pack and Jay Emannuel-Thomas are obviously players with pedigree, as is Nicky Shorey. But for most at Stevenage, we won’t know too much about your squad, purely because this is a first meeting. I hope the manager will have done more homework than me! 


Can I have a score prediction please?

Stevenage are starting to become hard to beat again, and City are struggling for league wins. I can see this game being right up Stevenage’s street. Kiss of death I know, but I will go for a Stevenage 1-0



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