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What next for Stevenage?

When Graham Westley resigned from Stevenage FC to join Preston North End midway through a successful season, fans at the Lamex would have been forgiven for thinking the club would slide down the league table and finish in a position of obscurity.

Having led the Hertfordshire club to two successive promotions, Westley had highlighted the unbelievable team spirit at Stevenage but felt it was the right time to leave when Preston approached him in January.

In came Gary Smith (pictured), a man with no managerial experience in England but someone who had won the MLS Cup with the Colorado Rapids.

Having beaten Championship winners Reading in the previous round, Smith’s first game in charge was an FA Cup tie against Notts County which they won 1-0.

Reaching the fifth round of the cup for the first time in their history, Stevenage were drawn against Tottenham Hotspur, earning a replay with a creditable 0-0 draw at home but losing 3-1 in the replay match at White Hart Lane.

Play-offs

Despite a run of only one win and nine draws in 13 games, Stevenage achieved a play-off place for the second consecutive year.

Their dreams of making history with a third successive promotion, this time to the Championship, were dashed with a 1-0 aggregate defeat to Sheffield United in the semi-finals.

The club's achievement of going from non-league football to the Football League in two seasons has seen a number of sides interested in their players.

Scott Laird has left the club to team up with former boss Westley at Deepdale, Lawrie Wilson has joined newly promoted Charlton Athletic and Michael Bostwick has joined Championship side Peterborough United.

Striker Chris Beardsley, Stacy Long, and long-serving defender Ronnie Henry have also left the club. All six departures were part of the 2009-10 Conference winning squad.

New signings

Smith has not hung about in replacing those who have left. Former Chelsea midfielder Anthony Grant has been brought in on a free transfer from Southend United, along with ex-Portugal Under-21 international Filipe Morais.

Grant and Morais have been joined by Preston’s David Gray, James Dunne, Anthony Furlonge, Steve Arnold, Greg Tansey, centre back Bondz N’Gala and Canadian international striker Marcus Haber.

The Stevenage boss said recently: “The players have a great pedigree. All the guys that we have added so far are players that I think will move us in a positive direction and it must remain that way.”

The Boro have not been short of success since 2006, winning the FA Trophy twice, being crowned Conference champions in 2010 and experiencing two promotions.

Gary Smith will be hoping he can repeat his Colorado Rapids success with Stevenage going into his first full season in charge.

The future is looking bright for Stevenage with an extension of the Lamex Stadium’s West Stand near completion and land for a larger training ground secured.

Televised matches and another FA Cup run in the upcoming season would do their finances no harm and help them grow.

It is up to Smith to generate the team spirit that his predecessor once spoke about, and for the players to ensure Stevenage do not suffer from the dreaded second season syndrome in League One.

By David Turner

Follow Total Football on Twitter: @TotalFootball12

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