David Conn: Farnborough turn romance into heartbreak and fiasco
Saturday 08 January 2005
The Conference side Farnborough scraped some of the romantic lustre off the Cup in 2003 when they switched their fourth-round home draw with Arsenal to rake in more money from the higher crowd at Highbury - a decision which led to the Football Association outlawing such moves, a frustration to Yeading, who have been advised their own ground was not safe enough and would have loved to run out at St James' Park tomorrow.
Farnborough and their manager, Graham Westley, garnered all the write-ups back then, yet the Arsenal game turned out to be Westley's last at Farnborough; he left immediately to become the manager at Stevenage Borough.
Unusually, Westley owned the club too, having scooped Farnborough out of financial crisis in 1998, and he had funded Farnborough's rise, signing players on eye-popping wages including, it is understood, one on more than £100,000 a year. When he left, he withdrew his funding, several players' contracts were then cancelled, meaning they could move on free transfers, which they did - joining Westley at Stevenage, who had to pay nothing for them.
Farnborough were left depleted, with big contracts for some remaining players which had to be settled. Westley gave his shares to Vic Searle, who came close to selling them to Tony Theo, a players' agent and Farnborough enthusiast, but sold instead to two other men, Tony Turberville and Ron Higgins. Theo reacted by holding a sit-in in the club bar for a week last August, before finally agreeing to stay on as the club's managing director.
Just last month, Farnborough avoided being wound up by the Inland Revenue only by coming up with a cheque on the day they were in court. "It is very difficult," Theo told me this week, "hard to see a future here." This is not the stuff you will see on Football Focus on third round day, a time to celebrate the innocence and Corinthian spirit of non-League football.
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