PANTOMIME season is upon us, so it’s wholly appropriate that Graham Westley is back in League Two as he returns to manage Stevenage for an incredible fourth time.

Westley is the ultimate panto villain as far as most Newport County AFC fans are concerned and he was back at Rodney Parade on Saturday to watch Boro take on the Exiles.

The 51-year-old already had a meeting scheduled with Stevenage chairman Phil Wallace on Sunday, but Jamille Matt’s stoppage-time equaliser to earn County a 1-1 draw probably hastened Westley’s return to the dugout.

Caretaker manager Mark Sampson makes way after this weekend’s home clash with Crewe Alexandra and the man known as ‘Medal Winner’ to his kids will be back on the touchline when Stevenage host Forest Green Rovers on Boxing Day.

Wallace says Westley has “evolved and matured” since his last spell at the Lamex ended in 2015 but his first interview yesterday will have sounded very familiar to County fans.

Surprisingly, he didn’t use his favourite buzzword “ingredients” but there was plenty to savour.

South Wales Argus:

Westley quoted American motivational speaker Zig Ziglar when he opined: “The old saying says ‘You can’t start now and create a new beginning, but you can start now and create a new ending’.”

He talked up the need to improve the players’ fitness, which will come as no surprise to the Exiles’ 2016-2017 squad members.

“I’ve just got to make sure we get that extra bit of fitness in them,” said Westley.

“Last weekend was a bit cruel losing that late goal, but they know why they lost that late goal and I’m sure they’re going to be working on their match-legs this week to go into that game and be a little bit stronger.”

And he even hinted at a play-off push, despite Boro currently occupying 23rd spot in the table – a full 18 points below seventh-placed Northampton Town.

“Seventh looks a long way off right now,” said Westley. “But we’re not even at the half-way stage so before we right our chances off for the season, let’s give the team a chance to evolve.”

That last quote brought to mind something similar he said during the heady days of a three-match winning streak as County boss in November 2016.

"We can look at sixth place and think two or three weeks down the line it's realistic we can put ourselves in contention,” said Westley, while his side were still propping up the division.

“That will be a nice starting point. If we can get to Christmas time and we are in the mix, that's a nice point to be at.

“I've won promotion out of this league from 18th in January, so we all know what's possible.”

South Wales Argus:

Sadly that early success was a false dawn and it all ended in tears at Rodney Parade as County were thumped 4-0 by Leyton Orient on his 49th birthday in March 2017.

Westley was sacked with the Exiles 11 points from safety with just 12 games to play and seemingly doomed to relegation.

Yet he still claimed to be the mastermind behind the remarkable Great Escape under Michael Flynn.

“My strategy is what kept that club in the Football League,” said Westley in January 2018.

“Yes, it happened under Flynny's management but I think anyone who is honest would say I did a very good job in working out a way of surviving and building a squad that would win the games at home to keep them in the League.”

Humility is not one of Westley’s strong points and those comments understandably earned him a whole heap of ridicule from County fans.

It takes a big ego to give yourself any credit after being sacked with a record of just four wins in 24 league games.

But even his harshest critics, and there are plenty of them, would have to acknowledge that he played a small part in survival.

County would almost certainly have been relegated if he’d stayed in charge, but he did bring Flynn back into the coaching fold after he'd been sidelined by previous boss Warren Feeney.

And he also made three crucial signings in David Pipe, Mickey Demetriou and Mark O’Brien.

All three played a major part in the Great Escape, not least with Demetriou and O’Brien scoring in that never-to-be-forgotten win over Notts County and Pipe providing the assist for the last-gasp winner.

Alex Samuel and Ryan Bird also proved useful additions in the short term.

Pipe, Demetriou and O'Brien were also key cogs in the side that has thrived in the cups over the past few years and made it all the way to the play-off final last season, and all three made my team of the decade last week.

Sadly for Westley, it took a different chef to use those ingredients effectively.