The day 9th of November 2009 is one that will not be remembered fondly in the minds of many Posh fans, it was the day that Peterborough lost ‘the brightest manager in the whole of English football’, Darren Ferguson. The Ferguson departure is still surrounded with speculation, every Posh fan wants to know the truth but, it seems, only three men do; Barry Fry, Darragh MacAnthony and Darren Ferguson.
Since Ferguson has departed there has been criticism of him, in-fact even after a poor start to the season some Posh fans believed, the man who had got Peterborough to the Championship with successive promotions, was out of his depth. His transfers have been the main source of criticism; Lee Frecklington, Toumani Diagouraga and Tommy Rowe were the men brought in to push Peterborough up the table, to succeed with the chairman’s expectation, perhaps an over optimistic charge for the play-offs however after the arrival of Mark Cooper 2 find themselves warming the bench and one is out on loan, back in League 1 with Brentford. Even before these transfers, the basis of the success was already there, George Boyd, Craig Mackail-Smith and Aaron McLean had been signed by previous manager Keith Alexander. Of the signings actually signed in Ferguson’s reign, only two started at the weekend’s match against Sheffield Wednesday.
The other criticism of many fans of Ferguson’s was the fact that the team was conceding too many goals; this tendency of the Peterborough team has not been eradicated under Cooper. In Cooper’s ten games in charge Peterborough have leaked a total of 24 goals, not good enough for a manager who has built his success at his former clubs, Kettering and Tamworth on their ability to defend.
Cooper came in as manager on the 14th November, in his ten games in charge Peterborough have only won once, picking up a poor total of 7 points in 9 League matches. Under Ferguson 11 points were collected in 17 League games. Cooper’s appointment has brought some improvement but not enough to push Posh up the table and out of a relegation place.
After Peterborough latest defeat against Sheffield Wednesday it seems that relegation is an inevitability, too many ‘6-pointers’ have been lost and Posh find themselves sitting 9 points off safety with teams around them having games-in-hand on them. Cooper has targeted 48 points meaning, a team that have only won 3 games all season, will have to win the equivalent of ten of their last twenty games to achieve the target of points set by the ‘gaffer’. If Posh were to stay up now it would take nothing short of a miracle and most certainly would be classed as a ‘great escape’.
It does seem Mark Cooper has inherited a tough job, the squad has been built around Ferguson and no doubt will still have loyalty to their former manager who has guided them this far. Ferguson’s loyalty to his players seems to have been a down-fall, despite what has been said, Peterborough most certainly underestimated the jump from League 1 to the Championship, bringing in just three first team players during the summer, with Ferguson choosing to stick with the team that got the club here rather than strengthening with a number of new faces. However, it is no doubt that Posh fans were underwhelmed with the appointment of the Kettering manager rather than a more experienced Championship manager, despite many appreciating the fact that Ferguson was given the chance, albeit under different circumstances, without any experience of management at all.
The whole situation does have a touch of ‘the Damned United’ about it; a new manager coming in inheriting a squad that want the old one back it seems with Cooper’s recent comments to the media, “I am sure they will all be hoping Darren will buy them. So if they want to go to Preston, they have to pay really well on Tuesday.” and set of fans with high expectations after the success of previous seasons. There is no doubt Ferguson is a tough act to follow, it was going to take a Mark Robins reinvigoration for Posh fans really to fall in love with Cooper after many being so disappointed the previous manager left.
The drop down to League 1 will no doubt be one that will hurt the club, if it does happen. It is likely the higher reputation players will be off. Lewis, Boyd and McLean, the latter handing in a transfer request have even been linked with a move away in this transfer window. Meaning the back-bone of the squad that achieved back-to-back promotions will all have gone and it seems the Posh project of getting to the Premier League in 7 years will be re-started.
However, there is no doubt that this club is punching above its weight, only once before in Peterborough’s history has the club managed to get to the Championship and with the second lowest average attendance in the League their struggles may have been foreseen for those not so involved by the recent success, this season has certainly put every fans feet back on the ground.
Whatever happens from now on in, it is time for this club to stick together from the top down. This squad has got success in the previous two years clubs will now try to replicate, if Championship football was offered within three years to Posh fans watching the 7 match losing streak under Keith Alexander that arm would have been lucky to stay on, let alone the hand.