POSH PREVIEW SPECIAL: Fry loses first game and spreads the blame

Barry Fry watched the game bare-chested.
Barry Fry watched the game bare-chested.
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Grant McCann visits Bristol Rovers for his next game in charge of Posh. His side desperately need a win to make up for last weekend’s horror show against Wimbledon. But it certainly wasn’t a happy hunting ground for Barry Fry 20 years ago.

Barry Fry’s first game as manager of Posh 20 years ago was away at Bristol Rovers on August 17, 1996, the first day of a new season.

Roger Willis gets up well for Posh with Ken Charlery (left) waiting to pounce.

Roger Willis gets up well for Posh with Ken Charlery (left) waiting to pounce.

Posh fans couldn’t wait for that Division Two campaign to start as Fry , who had also purchased the club that May, had splashed the cash in the summer to sign the likes of midfielder Martin O’Connor and winger Scott Houghton.

That pair, plus right-back Aidy Boothroyd and midfielder Roger Willis, made their Posh debuts in the opening game .

However, as so often proved the case in Fry’s 10-year managerial reign, the hype wasn’t matched by the substance and Posh went down 1-0 to a Bristol Rovers team who had Ian Holloway as player-manager.

Fry, who watched the game bare-chested, passed the blame for the defeat around. Keeper Jon Sheffield was ‘beaten before he started,’ the playing surface was ‘a disgrace’ and his strikers were ‘all awful’. He still said that Posh would win the league though!

Record signing Martin O'Connor.

Record signing Martin O'Connor.

Posh dominated large chunks of a game played at Bath City’s horrible old Twerton Park ground, but couldn’t score. Peterborough Telegraph reporter Alan Swann still confidently predicted it would be the best Posh team for years.

Instead they were relegated after star man O’Connor was sold to combat financial problems that flared up rather rapidly.

THE POSH SIDE THAT FACED BRISTOL ROVERS 20 YEARS AGO

Jon Sheffield

A difference of opinion between Ken Charlery and Bristol's Peter Beadle sparks off a bout of pushing and shoving.

A difference of opinion between Ken Charlery and Bristol's Peter Beadle sparks off a bout of pushing and shoving.

Goalkeeper signed for a club record ‘keeper fee of £150,000 from Cambridge United the season before. Never convinced and sold to Plymouth at a £50k loss in 1997. Settled in Devon where he ran a successful goalkeeping school.

Aidy Boothroyd

Right-back signed by Fry on a free from Mansfield that summer. Rovers game was his Posh debut, but made just 38 Posh appearances before broken leg ended his career. Managed Watford into the Premier League, managed Cobblers to the bottom of the Football League, now England Under 21 manager.

Simon Clark

Former Holbeach United player who entered the Football League aged 26 with Posh when signed by John Still. Steady at full-back and centre-back, making over 130 appearances before moving onto Orient and Colchester. Worked briefly for Posh Academy.

Greg Heald

Another of John Still’s non-league signings. Tried hard. Fry worked wonders to get Barnet to pay £130k for him in 1997. Now teaches PE.

Steve Welsh

Club legend from Wembley winning team of 1992. On his second spell with the club which wasn’t as successful as the first. Assistant manager and academy manager at Ilkeston.

Martin O’Connor

Club record signing for £350k from Walsall soon after Fry took charge. Sold to Birmingham for another club record of £500k four months later. Played international football for the Cayman Islands. Went on to become academy director of Chasetown FC.

Marcus Ebdon

Another Wembley 1992 hero who made 190 appearances for Posh before moving on to play well for Chesterfield. Was manager of Spalding United until recently.

Roger Willis

A lanky midfielder who followed Fry everywhere. Often flattered to deceive. Sold to Chesterfield for £100k the following season. Last heard of running a property company in Nottingham.

Scott Houghton

Barrel-chested winger and scorer of some great goals. He scored 15 in 71 appearances (not all of them great) before leaving for Southend on a free transfer in 1999. Joined Peterborough Police a few years later.

Ken Charlery

King Ken was on his third spell with Posh, which predictably failed to match the Wembley heroics of his first stint at the club. Now managing Ware FC.

Sean Farrell

Whole-hearted centre-forward whose goal-ratio (25 in 60 starts) was better than most Posh fans would remember. Fry soon got rid though, £80k to Notts County. Became a driving instuctor in Nottingham.