February 7, 2001 17:33: Monday evening saw another sensational episode in the Meadow Park soap opera as Wood boss Gary Phillips was sacked, after a mere five games in charge, and swiftly replaced by former England international Graham Roberts.

The 41-year-old ex-Spurs, Glasgow Rangers and Chelsea defender takes charge of a side that has already used 40 different players this term, not to mention two other managers, as club owner and chairman Danny Hunter searches desperately for the right formula with which to regain Wood's place in non-league football's upper echelons.

Appointed as successor to Colin Payne on only December 16, Phillips' 51 days in the Meadow Park hot seat saw one win, three draws and one defeat.

In Hunter's eyes, Phillips, who is employed as a postman, had failed to deliver, and their working relationship deteriorated accordingly.

Last Saturday's home draw with Oxford City, secured with an equaliser deep into injury time, appears to have been the last straw for the chairman, and events moved quickly within 48 hours.

Ironically, an interested spectator last week was Roberts himself, although both Hunter and his new employee dismiss his presence as mere coincidence.

"I was there on other business," Roberts told me when we met on Tuesday evening.

His is a pedigree that includes the ultimate accolade of six England caps awarded in 1983 and 1984, during a glittering six and a half years at Tottenham that saw Roberts win two FA Cup winners medals and skipper Spurs to UEFA Cup glory against Anderlecht.

With that background, what was his motivation to work in the first division of the Ryman League?

"I wanted to be at a club where they treat people right and look after the players and Danny's got that knack."

"He's very infectious, and after speaking to him on Monday night, I've got my enthusiasm back, and there's a buzz about me now.

"I do it for the love of it I love football and I love coaching. I'm passionate about it, and this club can go places, the facilities are fantastic.

"I'm here to get Wood back up to where they belong, although they've no divine right to be there. It's a great challenge to me," he said.

Roberts has certainly known some big challenges in his football career. From White Hart Lane he moved into the white hot atmosphere of Glasgow's 'Old Firm', and in two and a half seasons on the blue side of the city, Roberts helped Rangers to win both the Scottish Premier League and the Scottish FA Cup.

"But they won nine titles in a row after I left, though." he laughed.

From Ibrox he moved back to London to wear the blue of Chelsea, a club for which Wood supremo Hunter still holds a season ticket.

Roberts started this season in the unlikely surroundings of third division Hertford Town, but has previously managed at the highest level outside the Football League itself and rarely without incident.

After his pro career finished at West Bromwich Albion, he steered Enfield to runners up in the Isthmian League Premier Division in 1994, and briefly served Stevenage as a player before his most successful appointment so far, a three year stay at Yeovil.

Whilst at Huish Park he masterminded the Somerset club's promotion to the Conference in 1997, as they won the title with 101 points, but by January the following year he was history, following allegations of a provocative fax, sent to St James Park on the eve of a Newcastle v Stevenage FA Cup tie.

"All hell broke loose then," Roberts added ruefully.

Brief spells in charge of Chesham and Slough followed, but both were often stormy, and neither lasted more than nine months.

Since leaving Hertford last autumn, Roberts has been scouting for a variety of clubs, and recently spent time in Western Australia following an offer to help develop a new soccer club in Perth, which ominously is set for launch in October.

Southampton-born Roberts' footballing knowledge and contacts are without question, and despite scaling the game's heights, he recalls his own path into the pro game, which itself came via a winding path.

Youth team outings for Bournemouth and Portsmouth, as well as his home town club, came to nothing, and whilst working as a shipyard fitter he drifted into the local semi-pro scene with Sholing, Dorchester and Weymouth, from where he joined Spurs in 1980 for a then record fee for a non-league player of £35,000.

Roberts' brief for Hunter is simple get Wood back into the Premier Division and his engagement is currently until the end of the season.

As he prepared to oversee his first training session on Tuesday evening, he warned his new charges that it would not be an easy ride, amid rumours circulating that senior players had felt Phillips' training methods to be less than strenuous.

"I've told them that Butlins is closed for the year!" he replied bluntly.

Roberts has worked with some of the Wood players before: Lee Harvey at Yeovil, Youness Nabil at Slough, Darren Grieves, John Lawford and Paul Kelly at Chesham, but one can expect some inevitable new arrivals, possibly including long term cohorts Micky Engwell, Graham Kemp and Martin St Hilaire.

He confirmed: "I may have to bring in one or two players to the squad to add a bit more quality, but I won't bring in anyone who isn't better than what we already have."

Looking ahead, the vibes were nothing but positive, as Roberts pointed out: "We've got 19 league games left that's half a season!

"I watched Wood last Saturday, and I know they've got some good players, although I didn't like the style of football they were playing.

"It's going to be difficult to get out of this league but if we don't, it won't be through lack of trying.

"The lads are under pressure now, and we've got to win 15 of those last 19 matches.

"45 points added to the 41 they've already got should do it if we can't go up with 86 points there's something wrong somewhere! We must make Meadow Park a fortress!"

Chairman Hunter was ecstatic at the turn of events, despite his new man becoming Wood's fourth manager in 15 months.

"It's the best thing that's ever happened to Boreham Wood Football Club!" he trumpeted, adding: "We've got 19 cup finals to go, and I feel that I've got a real man manager in charge now just talking to him last night lifted me, and my enthusiasm has flooded back."

"Gary was the first guy I've had to sack, but I had to do what was good for the football club, and I couldn't see us going up with him.

"I didn't want a comfort zone manager you only get rewarded in life for hard work.

"Gary had one of the best budgets in the league he had his big chance, but he wasn't up to it."

Hunter refused to comment further on the brevity of Phillips' stay, only restating that promotion was paramount for the future development of the club.

But the vanquished Phillips maintains that if left alone he could and would have won promotion, and although he has accepted his situation now.

"To be honest, there's been little rumours around lately that this might happen, but when Graham was at the ground last Saturday Danny told me not to take any notice. Next thing you know I've got the chop!

"I only had five games, but I felt that the players were comfortable with the way I was doing things, the budget wasn't a problem, and I felt that we would put a run together."

Had there been a clash of personalities with Hunter?

"It never felt comfortable together from the start, and we had different opinions, maybe there was a clash.

"But I'm confident with my footballing knowledge, I won trophies at Aylesbury and managed Barnet in the football league."

Former Wood boss Bob Makin, who enjoyed a successful six years in the hot seat, and is now Chief Executive at Stevenage Borough, said: "Graham Roberts has got the highest pedigree of having been a very good player who played at the highest level.

All the elements are in there for him to be very good at doing the job, but to do it you need an organised mind and a decent method a managers skill is in the blend he creates."

Makin also mischievously said, referring to the past managers board in the Meadow Park boardroom: "They must be filling up that space under my name pretty quickly now!"