Stevenage FC come into the game having impressively defeated play-off chasing Swindon Town at home 2-0. The struggling League One team who currently sit bottom of the table, find themselves in a similar situation as ourselves. On Saturday the 4th of January 2014, Stevenage FC managed to beat Doncaster Rovers in the 4th round of the F.A cup by 3 goals to 2. Prior to their win against Swindon Town in the league, Stevenage have struggled to pick up points having lost 3 games and drawing 2. Pride of Nottingham returns with our opposition view which gives you an insight of a Stevenage FC fan.
Firstly, could you please tell prideofnottingham.co.uk a little about yourself such as how long you've been a Stevenage fan?
I moved to Stevenage in September 2005. I started going to watch Boro as a football loving neutral who felt he should support his local club, but quickly became a fan due to the great team ethic on show at Broadhall Way. I got my first season in the conference winning season and we haven't looked back since!
At the start of the season what was your expectations and how does this compare to where Stevenage currently find themselves?
We're bottom, so obviously I was hoping/expecting better than that. Realistically I was hoping for mid-table this season finishing 10-15th (which could still happen). We have a lot of squad re-balancing to do since Smith left and I don't expect that to be a quick process. Staying up would be a massive achievement from here, if we do that I can see a promotion challenge in 2015-16.
How do you think opposition fans view Stevenage FC?
The stereotypical view is "big, strong and physical" and you often get a tag of cynical thrown in for good measure. I'm happy for fans and teams to think that because that mean they underestimate the quality of the team to their detriment. I do think we have a problem with some match officials who come with those tags in the back of their mind and give all the 50:50s against us, but that's probably just my red and white tinted spectacles. Given we have one of the smallest budget in the league we have to make up for that with organisation and work-rate which is what the manager insists on from his players.
Can you tell us what your thoughts are Graham Westley, do you rate or like him as a manager?
Graham is an interesting character, you love him at your club and everyone else hates him (a bit like Neil Warnock). I wasn't a supporter of bringing Graham back last season because I didn't see how a man who left the club to take a 'bigger' role and then failed in that role could come back and still have respect in the dressing room. He clearly does though, and I love the team ethic he insists on from his footballer. Team before self. We know players will have to have the right mentality to sign for us, which is a major plus.
After picking up François Zoko on a free transfer, as Notts deemed him to be surplus to requirements. He seems to have found form for Stevenage, what is your view on this?
Zoko has been excellent, just what we needed and much better than he expected given we signed him on a free having been released from you guys. We lacked a clinical goal scorer and front man, particularly when Darius Charles was injured against Everton in the league cup (he's just now back after a lengthy break which is great for us!) I was delighted to see we'd signed him til the end of the season because without him I struggled to see where our goals were coming from to keep us up. Zoko himself has said he's enjoying playing a consistent position as the lead striker, which he hasn't had at previous club which might explain his change in performances.
Which League One team have you most looked forward to seeing play so far this season?
Peterborough, and in truth they were pretty disappointing. I enjoyed seeing Bozzie (Michael Bostwick) who was a massive player for us back in the day, but he's wasted at centre back. Far more potent in the Steven Gerrard type midfield role he played for us!
What have been your best and worst experiences as a Stevenage fan?
It's been mostly good. My best and worst experiences were both against Sheffield United, beating them at the Lamex in Novermber of the 2011/12 season, but then losing to them in the play-off semi final of the same season. Growing up a Wednesday fan it's always good to see United losing, but don't ask me about Stevenage 5 Sheffield Wednesday 1, I nearly exploded that day.
How important is Saturday for you and what do you think the outcome will be?
I don't think it's helpful to over-egg the importance of a single game. I wouldn't call it a must win. Every game is important though due to the hole our pre Christmas form has left us in. We particularly need better results against the teams around us in the league, so clearly we desperately need to get one over on you tomorrow!
What formation and starting 11 do you see Graham Westley choosing?
Westley will go 4,4,2. I expect to be unchanged from Swindon on Tuesday with Day in goal, Smith at right back, Hartley at left back, Jones and Ashton center backs. Doughty and Heslop in central midfield, Freeman left mid, Morais right mid, Akins and Zoko up front. Morais, Freeman and Akins will rotate positions throughout the game. We have had a couple of loan signings recently but I wouldn't expect to see them in the starting line up, maybe from the bench.
Which Stevenage players do you feel pose Notts County their main threat?
Zoko is obviously our most potent goal threat but Freeman is our man most likely to take someone on, beat them and create space for the rest of the team. He has great pace and technical ability and is deceptively strong for his size, if he can get his decision making and end product right he will follow in George Boyd's footsteps and play at the highest level.
How would you handle the main threats to Stevenage and which opposition players do you think will be key to have mark out of the game?
Enoch Showumni has goals in him, and Danny Haynes's pace will be a threat since our back 4 is short of pace. If If we can keep you playing in front of us and stop you threading through balls behind the back-line that will make the afternoon a lot more comfortable.
What is Stevenage like for travelling supporters? Can you tell us where opposition fans might find parking or things to do before kick off?
Stevenage is a friendly town and club. The East Terrace fans do like some banter with the away fans, but it is all good natured and comedy away fans get great respect. Parking near the ground is limited. Fairlands Valley Park has match day car-parking and is easily reached. If coming from the A1(M), follow the A602 as it should lead you to the car park, which will be on the left. If coming from the A10 along the A602, you will have to double back on yourself at the roundabout outside the ground to reach the car park. (Pinched from http://www.boroguide.co.uk/clubs/stevenage.php#.UtlASvvLcts a great resource for away fans).
The station is 15 minutes walk from the ground and is well sign-posted.
If you are at Stevenage early your best bet is to head up to the Old Town where the best restuarants and pubs are. In the New Town you will find a high street full of generic shops and a Wetherspoons like every other town center you've ever been to. Nearer to the ground Our Mutual Friend is a CAMRA pub with great real ales and ciders, and there is also a bar behind the away stand called The Broadhall Suite in which home and away fans can watch the lunchtime kick-off amicably. If you fancy a pre match stroll head north from the ground through Fairlands Valley Park which has woodland and lakes. It will be very muddy at this time of year though!
Pride of Nottingham would like to thank Patrick for stepping in and recovering this feature as all seemed lost. We wish Stevenage FC all the best with regards to the rest of their season and hopefully the best team will win on Saturday.
Edited by notts-joe