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Gary Johnson – A Sudden Exit

10 January 2011 by

Gary Johnson has left Peterborough United by mutual consent.

Surprising or not?

For those outside of Peterborough it may seem so. The Posh currently sit in 8th place in League One and lurk just outside the play-offs. Yet, Posh fans that have watched the numerous abject performances from their side so far this season it may not seem so ludicrous. This decision by Darragh MacAnthony will, undoubtedly, be lambasted by the press. To neutrals it may seem that Peterborough United have not given managers enough time. However, each of MacAnthony’s sackings have been justified and this Gary Johnson one also is not without reason.

So why exactly does it seem that the manager who MacAnthony publically backed in a Q+A on London – “We of course cannot continue to be beaten so badly by our title rivals and our manager understand this as well but you will not be getting a knee jerk reaction from me this season. I said at start that we have to give our manager time to get things right and I still feel he will. We are 4 unbeaten now and I feel ready for a nice run of wins.”has left the club? Officially the decision was made by mutual consent. The club and Johnson could not see eye to eye on transfer policy. That was all the official statement outlined. Brief and to the point. More worrying, however, is that the players found out via ‘Sky Sports News’ rather than a club official. Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, Peterborough United’s right winger, tweeted “Shocking news. Me n the boys found out through sky sports! Cheeeeeeers”. This is not the way to run a football club, in-fact, it comes across that the way the club is run is a joke. This is an embarrassment and something Darragh must rectify. However, let’s focus this blog on the reasons that Gary Johnson’s departure is a good thing for Peterborough United football club rather than the way the sacking was conducted.

Transfer Policy

The reason for Johnson’s sacking was this, officially. It is the natural place to start. Since Johnson’s arrival Posh have spent more than ever before in the hope of gaining promotion to the Championship. Previously the club was commended for its forward-thinking in signing “young and hungry players” and giving them a chance. They were thrown straight into the first team. It was a case of “if you’re good enough, you’re old enough”. It worked. Two back-to-back promotions led Posh to the Championship and the club felt like it was going somewhere. Sadly, the 2009-2010 season was an awful one in Peterborough United history. The Posh slumped to relegation, finishing bottom of the Championship.

It seemed the policy had ended when players like Grant McCann, Arron Davies and James Wesolowski joined in the summer. All were well reputed players with good track records. They didn’t come cheap either. The Posh, as a result of all the summer spending – Boyd signed on a large contract and 10 players were brought in over the summer – the club were now spending 50% more in wages than they were when the club reached the Championship. It didn’t make any real business sense. Yet, such was MacAnthony’s insistence on getting the club back into the Championship he backed the manager. This was Gary Johnson’s idea – it is clear that Darragh wanted to stick to the policy that had got the club into this position from anybody that has paid any interest in Peterborough this season.

Initially things were good but all of a sudden it went down-hill for Posh as they slumped down from the top of the league into a mid-table spot following some poor performances. Player’s attitudes were questioned – Grant McCann, one of the top earners, was heavily critisised by some Peterborough fans. In-fact the only summer signing that was impressing over the time was Lee Tomlin. A player brought in from Rushden and thrown into the first team. Sound familiar? This was Darragh’s idea. A blast from the past and it seemed as much justification as the Chairman needed. Perhaps this answer – Darragh was asked about his opinion on recent signings -, again from a recent Q+A, hinted at something:

“Mixed to be fair with some great acquisitions and some really poor ones as well which have since left the club. We moved away from policy I had in place out of panic and worrying about others opinions. We also brought in far too many loan players who were crap and cost us money we shouldn’t have spent. This isn’t going to happen again and my original Policy is firmly in place and nobody is going to sway me on it or change it. If people don’t like it, that’s their problem! I will do what I feel is right for our club in the long term.”

The fact that Darragh alludes to loan signings in his answer is interesting. Gary Johnson stated that he didn’t like to use the loan market in his initial statement after joining the club. Although it seems, that he has used it far too regularly and to very little effect. After McLean’s departure he was replaced by two loan signings (Kieran Agard and Jonathan Obika) – taking the total to 6 loan signings for the season – and it meant that Darragh’s opinion on this had again been undermined. Of the loan signings only two have had a positive impact so far; Adam Clayton, from Leeds, has been a calming influence in central midfield and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, from Wolves, seems to be a decent impact sub. The signings of Lewin Nyatanga and Marcus Williams were disastrous though. Signed to plug a defence that leaks goals, they did the opposite and cost the club what MacAnthony called “Championship wages”.

Defensive Weaknesses

Although not outlined in the club’s statement this must have been a worry for those in the higher echelons of the club. Time after time Posh’s defensive weaknesses have been exposed this season and perhaps the six goals the club conceded against Fulham this weekend was the final straw for MacAnthony. After-all the current defence has cost over a £1,000,000 in transfer fees and therefore should be perfectly able to compete at this level. Yet, the only defender that can claim to have can claim to have performed to any sort of creditable standard this season is Gabriel Zakuani, a player who was initially out of favour with Johnson.

Posh have suffered heavy defeats to promotion rivals this season on a regular basis. Charlton (5-1), Brighton (3-0), Bournemouth (5-1) and Southampton (4-1) have been notable beneficiaries of Posh’s defensive woes. In-fact in 29 games The Posh have only managed 3 clean-sheets. Hardly good enough for a team chasing promotion, especially when many of the goals conceded have been fairly basic ones to stop.

Not Always Smooth Going

If ever there was any doubt that this sacking was out of the blue then this proves that it wasn’t. This report in Darragh MacAnthony’s diaries after the Brighton game proves that Gary Johnson was hardly enjoying his time at Peterborough:

I am so excited about this game and watch it at my office HQ with few of lads who work for me. 2 top teams going up against each other should lead to cracking game and one if we win that will ignite our season. I still feel Brighton will go through a bad patch when winter sets in and feel they will struggle for goals later in season without more goal scorers up front. Well 90 minutes later I am pretty despondent after watching us freeze on the occasion and get hammered 3-0 in front of our own fans. Even before Boydy’s moment of madness we were crap and Joe kept it from being 10 nil with a fantastic performance. Brighton reminded me of Swansea the way they passed from back to front and to be fair completely outclassed us on the day, which shouldn’t happen on your own patch.”


“Then after the game I receive emails from some Journalists telling me GJ has resigned and what’s my comment on it. I think, oh f**k here we go again and no doubt it will be all my fault and another manager I have gone through. I shouldn’t take things too personally but people have to understand I give my heart, soul and wallet to Posh and only want us to do well, so when I am criticised unjustly, it gets me down and despondent. I try get hold of the Gaffer but no luck, then phone Baz who tells me that the Gaffer is still locked in his office with family after game and has taken the defeat badly. Well he isn’t the only one and I tell Barry & Bob maybe it’s time for me to step down as chairman, but stay as owner if I am heaping too much pressure on the management and players with my expectations. Then I go and meet my wife for a coffee across the road at Starbucks and get quite emotional about the whole thing. My Missus sees that I am not enjoying all this nonsense anymore with the ups and even more downs. I really feel deflated with that defeat as I thought with this squad and keeping all of our star players, we would put a real challenge together and compete with the best of them. Anyhow I chill a bit with the Missus and feel a lot better and Barry phones me and we speak for an hour and he also makes me feel a lot better. Eventually I speak with Gaffer later that day and do my best to lift his spirits as well as my own. I really need to stop getting so emotional about losing games but that is easier said than done, as we all know. But after seeing us hammered 6-0, 4-1, 3-0 and 5-1 in last 20 odd games it’s hard not to be angry and feel let down by players and management at time of writing this update mid November.”

The Return of Fergie?

Well, it may just be possible. Have a look at his from MacAnthony when asked whether he would have Ferguson back at Peterborough: Yes, as we had a lot of good times and I am the forgiving kind and don’t hold grudges”. It seems as if there is a certain section of fan support for Ferguson to return too. Already a Facebook group has been set-up in favour of a return for Ferguson. It does seem a remarkable coincidence that so soon after Fergie Jnr lost his job at Preston that Peterborough United now have a managerial vacancy.

Personally, I’d love to see him back. He provided the two best seasons that the club have had in recent history, perhaps ever and even though he has faltered in the Championship it doesn’t meant that he is unable to manage at that level. He has made mistakes but he has learnt from them and at this level he excelled. There once was a time when he was known as “the brightest young manager in English football” and heralded at Peterborough United.

If Ferguson does return it will mark the end of an unsavoury 18 months for The Posh. 4, soon to be 5, managers and a relegation and a squad, with a revolutionary policy, have turned into a laughing stock. No doubt they will receive criticism for this decision. The Guardian’s Louise Taylor stated that Peterborough were “the exact opposite of how a football club should be run” when  Mark Cooper was sacked. She must be tearing her hair out now.

However, if there is to be a return of Ferguson it will signal a new era. They say never go back but perhaps it could be the best thing that ever happened if Ferguson does come back to where it all began. Whoever it is they are going to have a mighty hard job on their hands, they are going to have to agree with the Chairman’s policy, and this appointment may just be the most important in Peterborough United history.

Welcome to the mental world of Peterborough United.

Up The Posh.

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  • adi mowles

    Excellent article.
    Methinks tomorrow night should be interesting when we get to see who is Darraghs guest of honour

  • John Verrall (author)

    Cheers Adi,

    Have you heard something? I’ve seen your post on .net and it seems you hint at Ferguson!?!

    I’d be delighted if it was but no doubt others will not be happy. He’s appointment will divide opinions. Seems to be a section dreaming of a return and a group hating the thought of it.

  • oldposhpete

    A good article as ever John.

    According to Wikipedia Andy Legg has been appointed, though how true that is I cannot verify as articles are edited by the users.

  • Jack

    nice article, and a good read.
    I have to disagree with you though, i think Gary was the right man to take us forward, Despite our defensive shortcomings.
    I was at the Fulham game on Saturday, and despite conceding six goals, i thought we gave an excellent account for ourselves, and could have easily taken the lead in the first 10 – 15 minutes of that game. We were just outclassed by a better team in the end, so to make judgements about Johnson on that game is a moot point really.
    And who are we going to get in to replace him? As much as i’d like to see Fergie Jnr join again, i don’t think it’s going to happen, just a little too much bad blood between Darragh and himself i think.
    I think all it will take to stop us leaking goals is to get an experienced defender in. Our defending is attrocious at times, and it makes me very sad.
    All in all, i’m sad to see Johnson go, he’s a good manager, but i’ll go with what Darragh thinks is best, he seems to only have the clubs best interests at heart.

    Over and out 🙂

  • John Verrall (author)

    I didn’t just make judgements on the Fulham game. Our defensive problems have been clear for all to see since the start of the season – taking away B.R (first game) – we’ve kept 2 clean sheets in 28 games. That’s atrocious, to be honest.

    I wasn’t convinced by Johnson and I’m still convinced this squad, individually is strong, just not being guided by the right man. By changing now the manager has time to make signings and we are still well placed for a P/O charge.

    Still, it wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve been proven wrong!

  • Jack

    No, i agree, we’re horrible at the back, absolutely terrible, i just think giving Johnson the elbow is the wrong way to fix it, but as i said i’m behind the chairman 110%.

    Up the Posh.

  • Uptheposh

    Dissapointed by the fact Gary has gone, but my bet is Andy Legg to be the new manager.

  • OBM

    Excellent article John, did you really whack this out so quickly, or has it been written for some time now?

    Finished work and got home at 11.30pm, gobsmacked, but GJ’s comments on the defence yesterday more than hinted he was clueless how to sort things out.

    Have read all the comments on a possible replacement, not going to comment yet, other than to say I hope Darragh picks the man himself.

    Darragh obviously felt the magnificent fans at Fulham deserved better, I just hope the magnificent fans realise Darragh deserves better as well.

  • Gary

    Excellent article John as always, well things could not carry on. I think I and many others were puzzled by our ex-manager. Because here was a proven manager , yet he could not see or do anything about our major flaw. He had 9 months to sort things out, yet despite our problem being our defences , he goes and gets more strikers, Gannon sorted things out and tightened things. up in a very short time, but Johnson could`nt. Says it all really

  • ForeverPosh

    Good article, drawing together evidence for why GJ is leaving. In my opinion, since the Brighton game GJ seems to have lack ‘sparkle’ in his post-match interviews.
    ‘Policy’ (have we been told which policy?) is not something a well run company changes on a regular basis, so we can assume that the Manager-Chairman disagreement is not new. If it is transfer and or loan policy, then there certainly has been some poor choices, Nyatanga and Williams being particularly unfortunate. Pity that they couldn’t have sorted out and agreed policy before GJ started the job – that is surely the responsibility of the ‘selection committee’?
    Whatever supporters think of his tenure at Posh, Gary Johnson has had recent success in the game and I find it sad that he has only had eight or nine months to prove his worth here. He becomes another statistic in a season when we are seeing so many good managers succumbing to the pressure for ‘instant success’.
    What manager who cares for his reputation and credibility will come to Posh now?

  • Glinton Posh

    What a great article .. agree 100% .. Keep up the good work

  • John Verrall (author)

    Thanks everyone,

    OBM, I wrote it after I found out about the sacking. Tried to get it finished as quickly as possible but there was a lot to talk about so I wasn’t stuck for ideas.

    Gary, I agree with what you say. GJ’s certainly not impressed me, tactically, since joining. We all knew that we would score goals this season but the main thing was keeping them out, and Johnson hasn’t done so. The fact is we haven’t even shown signs of improvement really – even after Nicky Eaden’s departure. Having said that it wasn’t a result based sacking, it appears.

    As you say FP there is now a question of who will want to come? It does seem a poisened chalice. And it is a shame that GJ never really worked out.

  • Poshclogs

    Really good read – nice work JV

    Cant believe that everyone seems to be talking DF up though – his last few months in charge at posh and then dismal failings at Preston must be enough to convince that he’s just not up to it – he got promotion riding the wave and using players that KA bought in. I think the players like him but he can’t pick a team up and make them play – preston proves it…

    It is a poisoned chalice as you say, but i doubt that’ll put off the hopefuls – thay still flock to newcastle (although i do realise the differences between posh and Newcastle…)

  • OBM

    Come on John, the next instalment is long overdue

  • John Verrall (author)

    New post on Ferguson will be here soon! I’ve been ill for the last 2 days though. Maybe one up tonight – more likely tomorrow.

  • TrikerAde

    From a concerned Yeovil manager……we would have him back (GJ) !!

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