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Peterborough United

The MacAnthony Era – Part 1 (Darragh’s Arrival)

It all started with a T.V series. A documentary designed to highlight the turmoil at Peterborough United football club. It did just that. Dressing room unrest, conflict and negativity were all evident. Peterborough United wasn’t a happy place. It was a football club that was struggling. Struggling in every sense of the word. Struggling to stay in the division, struggling to find a squad, struggling to stay afloat. With this documentary it wasn’t just Posh fans who knew this either. It was public knowledge. Publically humiliated to raise some much needed funds. The future looked bleak.

One man sat at home watching “Big Ron Manager” pondering. He wanted a route into football, he had the cash, and he’d visited Conference clubs beforehand but something about Peterborough had grabbed his interest. Somehow in some of the darkest of days for the club a little glimmer of light had shone through. This was the team. Darragh MacAnthony wanted to buy Peterborough United.

Sitting at home he contacted the club to get in touch Barry Fry, then chairman. He needed to look around at the product before buying it, as with any investment. However, through this T.V documentary the seeds had already been sewn. The visit only went to further confirm his interest. Something good had came out of “Big Ron Manager”. A new chairman. Funding. Ambition. Perhaps, the future of Peterborough United wasn’t as depressing as it had seemed.

MacAnthony’s purchase of the club officially went through in August 2007 but he was effectively chairman in September the year before. Peterborough United were now cleared of debt. Fry, who MacAnthony brought the club from, was then moved to a Director of Football role, something which has remained controversial with fans every since. The majority wanted to see the back of Fry but he stayed. MacAnthony trusted him and until this day he still does. At the age of 30 MacAnthony was very young to be a Chairman but his business credentials proved that he was certainly astute. Dealing in overseas properties with his company, MRI, MacAnthony had developed into a multi-millionaire – it was estimated his wealth was at £150 million when he brought the club. This was a far cry from before. Peterborough United had money. They had ambition. They had a future.

To get this far in business so early required ambition. Ambition in abundance. Something the football club had lacked under Fry. Perhaps due to funds, perhaps due to other reasons. Darragh’s arrival at the club was announced as “the biggest signing that Peterborough United have ever made”. It certainly felt like that. On his arrival he stated that he wanted to have fun with Peterborough United. A few were worried, it was more than a toy to them. MacAnthony made no apologies.

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The 2006-2007 season was MacAnthony’s first. So far he hadn’t influenced the club massively on the playing side. Of course, off the field things were already far better but in terms of the players the club hadn’t advanced. They were brought by the previous regime. As was the manager, the late Keith Alexander. The team wasn’t anything special. The likes of Simon Yeo, Richard Butcher and Trevor Benjamin were first team regulars and that goes some way to telling you how far this club has come in a relatively short space of time. However, Posh started well. The opening six games left the Posh unbeaten in League Two and they had experienced a win over Ipswich Town in the League Cup on penalties. Alexander had started his Peterborough United reign well.

September was a different story. After 5 defeats and just 2 wins “The Posh” hadn’t stayed in the play-off places for long and the fans intial optimism seemed a little false. Back in a mid-table position the club was where it always had been and was expected to be. Mid-table. Mediocre. Things did pick up though and five consecutive wins in October and November was an improvement. The win over Rotherham set up an F.A Cup tie away to Tranmere. Fairly insignificant some would have thought when it was first drawn but MacAnthony turned this game into a momentous occasion. Offering free coach travel an army of Posh fans set off to Prenton Park – 24 coaches to be precise. With streamers, banners and balloons a great atmosphere was created. A party atmosphere. A celebration that new times were ahead. This was a new era for the club. Posh won 2-1 and progressed to the third round of the F.A Cup but the result itself wasn’t entirely significant. The day had been a celebration. A release. The start of a new beginning.

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January further confirmed this. Posh had money to spend and it made a vast difference. In came Micah Hyde, Josh Low and Craig Morgan. Experienced players for this level. Good players for this level. Some talent. However, the most significant thing during this transfer window was the arrival of three non-league players. George Boyd, Craig Mackail-Smith and Aaron McLean joined. The club had spent a lot of money on Boyd especially. A Conference record £250,000. A sum that Peterborough United couldn’t have considered spending before MacAnthony. In signing these three players Alexander confirmed that part of him would still be remembered at Posh.

Things would turn sour in the league after this, however. 7 consecutive defeats left Posh fearing about a relegation fight. The future would hardly look so bright if the club were a non-league one. Off the field there was optimism but on the field it appeared little had changed. MacAnthony made his first big decision. He sacked Alexander. Another signal of intent. Mid-table wasn’t good enough anymore.

The search for a new manager began. It needed to be someone who shared MacAnthony’s ambition. The new manager came as a surprise. It was announced that the son of Sir Alex Ferguson had been appointed. Darren Ferguson was the new manager of Peterborough United football club…

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