It’s becoming a distance memory already. The glory days. Something to look back on. When Peterborough United football club felt special. We had something that everyone strived for and every football fan relishes in. It wasn’t tangible, nor was it easy to say exactly what it was, but there was something. A buzz. An excitement. It was a great time to be a Posh fan, perhaps the best ever.
We thought it was coming back. This season it felt like that again. Exciting, optimistic, special. However, it’s gone now. Replaced by a wealth of disappointment, pain and hurt. It’s amazing how quickly things can change. Two good seasons don’t feel the same any more. The memories are somehow tarnished. It should still feel like that but it doesn’t. It almost feels empty, a place where excitement and optimism has been replaced by unfulfilled promises and frustration.
When Gary Johnson joined we were told this was an appointment “that would shock the world of football”. But Barry Fry’s regular hyperbole can only last for so long. We were told that “this squad is the best we’ve ever had”. It wasn’t “if we can gain promotion”, it was “when we gain promotion”. Just like last season, when we were told that another promotion push was on the cards, that an unprecedented third promotion on the bounce was possible. We believed it. Again, we were let down. Now, it seems, we are about to be disappointed again. Once is bearable, twice isn’t.
When Darren Ferguson arrived it started the MacAnthony era. Of course, Darragh was here before then but this was when things took off. The club announced its “young and hungry policy”. We would attract young, inexperienced talent, grasp its potential and unleash it. It worked. Better than anyone would have predicted. The likes of George Boyd, Craig Mackail-Smith and Aaron McLean had an amount of talent that had been rare at London Road. They cared. They had passion. They were Peterborough United players. Due to the success we travelled up the leagues; quickly. Arguably too quickly and we couldn’t progress, as a club, as rapidly as some of these players were. They had carried us as far as we could, at the time, go. New blood was needed but when it came it was too late. The day Darren Ferguson left was a day of heart-break at Posh, whatever the reason for his sacking, no-one can say that he wasn’t a fantastic manager in Peterborough United history. When he left part of Peterborough United left. Part of the players went with him and that season was always destined to be one of relegation.
As MacAnthony points out in his latest media comments, this season we seemed to have picked ourselves up. Starting with a new emphasis on spending money on more experienced players to bolster a squad and push for the Championship, again, this time better equipped. The wage budget was doubled, an experienced manager was appointed, a chief scout hired for the first time in the club’s history. Yet, it still doesn’t seem to be working. In-fact, it’s taking us backwards. Some don’t look as if they care, some don’t look good enough. At the minute this club is rapidly becoming an embarrassment. It’s starting to get that bad. After tasting success, it’s been taken away. Dramatically.
A 4-1 defeat at Southampton was the latest in a string of hammerings under Johnson’s reign. Being beaten 6-0 by Reading was cast aside. Bournemouth’s 5-1 demolition job was a “blip”. Food poisoning was blamed. Brighton’s 3-0 defeat might have been different if it wasn’t for Boyd’s red card for an act of petulance. It was at Charlton things finally hit home. Perhaps, we’re just not good enough. If there were any doubts Southampton confirmed this. Posh just don’t look as comfortable, with or without that ball, as any other promotion contender in the division. So much so that even calling us a promotion contender looks optimistic.
It shouldn’t be this way. Individually, the players should be good enough. Their track records suggest so anyway. Seven members of the 2008-2009 promotion squad still remain. Added to that Grant McCann, Lewin Nyatanga, Marcus Williams and James Wesolowski can all say they have had successful spells in teams that are placed higher in the football ladder than League One. Over-seen by a manager who was “one game away from reaching the Premier League” and had gained promotion from this level before. However, the one glimmer of hope this season has come from Lee Tomlin. A 20 year old from Rushden. A “young and hungry signing”. Like the “good old days”.
It seems Johnson has been given 5 matches to save his Posh career now. The fans aren’t happy. The players aren’t happy. Most crucially, Darragh’s not happy. As a football club we now expect better. We expect things to feel special again. It won’t happen in 5 matches. It will take a lot more than that now. But those five games could bring some life back to London Road. Some exuberance, something to look forward to and be optimistic about. The start of a new era. Perhaps, they could be the beginning to the next set of “glory days” for Posh.
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