Peterborough United chairman Darragh MacAnthony backed manager Graham Westley and his playing squad to come good during an entertaining live chat with fans tonight (February 22).
MacAnthony spent 90 minutes answering questions from supporters on social media from his home in the United States.
He covered a wide range of topics, went over a lot of old ground and tried to dilute the impact of last week’s surprise promise to ‘find a new owner for the club if promotion isn’t achieved in 18 months’.
MacAnthony also spoke of his desire to buy the ground back from Peterborough City Council within the next 24 months and he admitted that integrating seven new players in January has proved more difficult than he imagined. He also defended the club’s policy of selling talented players when the price is right.
But he opened by speaking about Posh’s poor recent form. His team host Oldham in a League One fixture at the ABAX Stadium tomorrow (February 23, 7.45pm kick off) on the back of two heavy defeats.
MacAnthony said: “We’ve not shown up for the last two games. It’s been frustrating for me, the manager, his staff and the players. No-one goes out to lose 4-0 or 3-0, but we were pushovers for Bradford and Millwall. That’s a hard fact.
“But we will learn from our mistakes. We know we can be so much better, we know we can play much better football and it will happen again soon.
“We have an honest group of players. There is not a bad person in the camp, on the playing side or the management side and one good result will turn it around. That’s what happened in September and it will happen again.
“It’s true that introducing so many new players at the same time hasn’t helped, but we wanted to make our signings in January so we didn’t have an unpheavel in the summer. The new players haven’t hit the ground running as we’d hoped, but it’s far too early to write any of them off. We’ve weakened the squad short term in order to strengthen it long term.
“It’s a fact of life for clubs at our level that a player often has to be sold every year. I get asked why teams like Burton and Gillingham are at the top of the league without selling players and that irritates me. They are two clubs who are doing great, but in my nine years as Posh chairman how many seasons have they spent in the Championship.
“Anyway Burton did sell a player in January and if Gillingham received an offer fof £2.5 million for a player of Conor Washington’s quality I’m sure they’d sell as well. Britt Assombalonga’s sale paid for the exciting team we were watching before Christmas.
“Graham Westley will still be the manager in the summer even if we stay on a bad run. It’s not always the manager’s fault.
“He’s been getting some criticism for some of his selections and ‘square pegs in round holes’ is a pet hate of mine, but sometimes the injuries, suspensions and unavailabilities force you into it. Jermaine Anderson and Callum Elder have been massive losses for us for instance.
“Graham is a top manager, one of the best I have had. He knows he has to win games and he will. I’m sure we will get poor gates for the next two home games, but that’s because of the football that’s been on show in the last two matches. I accept that and I won’t moan about it.
“My statement last week about trying to find a new owner if we hadn’t won promotion to the Championship in 18 months was intended to show my confidence in our team. It wasn’t a threat to quit or an attempt to get people to persuade me to stay. If I do go I hope my stay is rememberd with fondness.
“If we miss out on promotion with the last kick of a game and the fans are happy for me to stay then I will. I just want to do what’s right for the club.
“One of my main aims is to buy the ground back within 24 months. We are paying out 700-800k in dead rent money every year and that’s too much for us. That’s not a criticism of the council as they have been very supportive, but as a business that rent figure is too high.
“One of the biggest regrets I have as owner is not making more of an effort to buy the ground when I first took over.”
Other points made by MacAnthony this evening included.
*Tom Nichols chose Posh over two Championship clubs. Posh are paying him 60% of the wage figure he could have received elsewhere.
*There may be a need for an experienced midfielder like Dean Keates, Micah Hyde or Grant McCann in the summer. Less so if Jermaine Anderson returns in top form.
*Prospective new signings are met at the ABAX Stadium rather than the Nene Park Academy training ground because the latter’s car park is an embarrassment.
*Posh spent £400k improving the inside of the training ground. The car park is not Posh’s responsibility, nor is it Nene Park Academy’s
*The Posh squad is too big and eight or nine players will be trimmed in the summer.
*Graham Westley has not pumped money into Posh. MacAnthony doesn’t share, or work with partners.
*Posh could be forced into one good player sale in the summer if promotion is not won and season ticket sales are poor.
*MacAnthony doesn’t regret one of his big Posh sales. He feels a couple could have left sooner than they did,
*There was interest in Marcus Maddison from one club in January. Only involved one phone call and the proposed move didn’t get very far.
*MacAnthony said Marcus Maddison ‘wants to be loved and if he isn’t he can sulk and act a bit daft’, but he expects him to be a match-winner if he plays tomorrow.
*Posh need a goalkeeper to put pressure on Ben Alnwick.
*If MacAnthony could travel back in time he would have let Darren Ferguson leave as soon as Posh were relegated from the Championship in agonising fashion at Crystal Palace in 2013. “Fergie wanted to leave and ended up staying 18 months too long.”
*MacAnthony praised Northampton Town fans for ‘rallying together and not running to the hills’ during the club’s financial difficulties earlier in the season.
*MacAnthony’s only regret re Nicky Ajose was the money he spent on him, but he is delighted the striker is now showing Swindon FC what Posh originally saw in him.
*Callum Elder won’t be fit until the summer and Posh might try and bring him back to the club then.
*MacAnthony insists Posh spoke to Luton board members over the possibility of bringing Mark Tyler back to the club. He said the Luton manager ‘who got very excited about things’ was ‘mis-informed’.
*There is a chance that Martin Samuelsen would return to Posh next season if the club were in the Championship.
*MacAnthony reckons promotion to the Championship is worth £6 million to Posh. He also reckons Posh could attract gates of 9-10,000 at that level.