Wednesday, noon: Peterborough United manager Darren Ferguson has confirmed it was decision to fine and transfer list four senior players for a breach of club discipline.
Club captain Gaby Zakuani, record signing Tyrone Barnett, plus Emile Sinclair and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing have all been punished following an internal investigation of events following last Saturday’s (November 10) home defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace.
The players involved went into the city centre for a night out which lasted until the early hours of the following morning. The Peterborough Telegraph learnt that Ferguson was made aware of ‘unprofessional behaviour’ later on Sunday and hauled the players into London Road for a dressing down first thing on Monday morning (November 12).
Ferguson’s reaction was to fine the players an unspecified amount (the maximum is thought to be two weeks wages) and to make them available for transfer. The manager’s judgement has received the full backing of club chairman Darragh MacAnthony.
Ferguson broke his silence on the affair to the Peterborough Telegraph today (November 14). He said: “I’m the manager of the club and as such I have to take care of player discipline.
“I can’t at this moment add to the club’s statement (it was issued on Monday, November 12), but I can confirm it was my decision and my decision alone to punish the players as I did.
“The chairman has backed me 100 per cent and as a club we must move on as quickly as possible. I spoke to the whole squad first thing on Monday morning and dealt with the players after that.
“The four players involved have been away from the club since then. I know what I am going to do regarding their selection or not at the weekend, but I will reveal that nearer the time.
“I will say that the reaction and attitude of the rest of the squad since our meeting has been brilliant. I am confident they will not be adversely affected by what has happened.”
Posh host Blackburn in a Championship fixture at London Road on Saturday (November 17), a game that will be televised live by Sky.
Ferguson confirmed that the internal investigation is ongoing. The players have enlisted the help of their union, the Professional Footballers Association to fight their case.
Zakuani has claimed, in conversations with fans on Twitter, that he has not yet been given the opportunity to put his side of the story to club officials.
The news couldn’t have arrived at a much worse time for the club who are currently next-to-bottom in the Championship after suffering 12 defeats in 16 matches.
MacAnthony used his Twitter account to respond to angry and abusive messages left for him following the release of the club statement on the issue.
He appeared annoyed that senior players had been out in town soon after a sixth home defeat of the season, this one at the hands of Crystal Palace.
MacAnthony said: “Just back from trip and arrived in my office to mountains of tweets. A lot of them full of abuse and anger aimed at me. Now I really am baffled.
“The club has made a statement as you all know and I am fully behind the Gaffer on his course of action today.
“I give blood sweat & tears for the Posh and invest no matter what. Personally (I) have helped players out many times through tough times so when our club’s back is to the wall, (and we) have been well beaten at home again, I need my lads to show some common sense, humility, class and stay focused on (the) battle in hand.
“If they can’t be trusted to do that, then Posh will be stronger without them going forward. Harsh but true!”
Posh paid a club record £1.1 million pound for Barnett earlier this year, but his form has been so poor this season the club would be lucky to recoup much of that fee even if a possible purchaser is found.
The players involved
Barnett has scored just one goal this season, in the 2-0 win at Barnsley on October 2, and came on as a second-half substitute against Palace.
Sinclair, Mendez-Laing and Zakuani have all struggled to make the Posh starting line-up this season. In the case of Zakuani that’s a massive surprise as he was the club’s player-of-the-year for the 2011-12 season, partly because he played with the help of pain-killing injections in a badly broken toe for much of the campaign.
Zakuani’s apparent involvement in a breach of club rules has shocked Posh fans. The DR Congo international has been seen as the perfect ambassador for the club since moving to London Road in September 2008.
Zakuani has since racked up 160 first-team appearances and has twice helped the club to promotion from League One.
All the players involved have been banned from talking about the incident, but Zakuani felt obliged to defend himself on Twitter after he also received plenty of criticism regarding his behaviour on the social network site.
Zakuani confirmed he had been out in town after the Palace defeat (he was an unsued substitute), but insisted he did not drink and that he did nothing untoward. He admitted he was hurt at being placed on the transfer list.
Zakuani’s insistence that he did not behave badly was backed up by staff at the city’s Halo Nightclub where the Posh party spent part of their big night out.
Halo manager Dave Keetley, again on Twitter said: “Gaby Zakuani has visited Halo on several occasions. ALWAYS (sic) acts the perfect gentleman. NEVER (sic) done anything to the detriment of Peterborough United.”
Zakuani added: “I went out on a weekend where there’s no midweek game. Those that know me know I don’t drink or smoke. I was up at 8am for church next day.
“Honestly at the time I didn’t feel I did anything wrong as I was home around 2am. I wasn’t arrested. (There was) no fighting or anti social behaviour.
“I understand the club are not happy as we are at the wrong end of the table and I have nothing, but total respect for the gaffa (sic) and staff.
I’m hurt it’s come to this as we have made a lot of history in the past 5 seasons and I love the club to bits, sorry to all my fans.
“I hope it gets resolved one way or another, and I’m 100% committed, and never will give less than that. Thanks.”
A club statement released on Monday (November 12) said: “Peterborough United are disappointed to report that Gabriel Zakuani, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, Emile Sinclair and Tyrone Barnett have been transfer listed and fined by the football club following an internal investigation into a breach of club discipline.
“The club will be making no further comment on the matter.”
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