Peterborough United 2018-19 is a difficult puzzle to solve
No wonder Posh chairman Darragh MacAnthony declined his annual invitation to make confident predictions about the forthcoming season in the Peterborough Telegraph's pre-season supplement.
The sheer amount of new signings (15 and counting, there is still a week until transfer deadline day after all), indifferent friendly form and the loss of some attacking quality make speculating on this season a real puzzle.
It’s been the strangest summer I’ve known in 26 years covering my favourite team. Who would have thought Leo Da Silva Lopes and Andrew Hughes would beat Marcus Maddison into the Championship for a start?
It’s times like this I need Darragh’s optimism to give me hope, but I’ve also learnt not to take any notice of summer form as Iremember Barry Fry’s first summer at Posh when Chelsea were beaten at London Road and Zeke Rowe was playing like Pele. Posh were relegated at the end of that season.
I also dismiss the negative naysayers who ignore recent history.
‘We’ve signed too many players from lower divisions like League Two and the Scottish Premier League,” they cry while presumably forgetting the Holy Trinity, Dwight Gayle, Gwion Edwards and Jack Marriott all took a step up to move to London Road.
‘Without Edwards and Marriott we have no chance,” they also whinge, but I always recall winning promotion in 1999/2000 after selling the best two players at the club, Matthew Etherington and Simon Davies, midway through that campaign.
I’m not expecting Maddison to feature this season either, but then he’s been at Posh for four seasons and he’s been better at alienating his fanbase than he has at propelling promotion bids.
Of course the 52 goals scored by Marriott, Maddison and Edwards last season will take some replacing, but I suspect manager Steve Evans will find a way to win matches. He’s done it throughout his managerial career after all.
I’m confident we will see a better organised Posh defence, a team much harder to play against, one that’s far more streetwise and, when the team settles down, some decent football.
The installation of a playing carpet at the ABAX Stadium doesn’t suggest hoofball will be an Evans priority.
Whether or not that translates to success is anyone’s guess. I wouldn’t be completely surprised by any finish between third and 12th.
Sunderland, with the huge advantage of £48 million of parachute payments and their huge support, should walk this division, but then they have appointed a manager with no knowledge of League One and some of their recent signings have been less than impressive.
But the gulf between the Championship and League One is vast these days so if relegated teams Sunderland and Barnsley don’t finish in the top two I’ll be shocked.
And if Posh finish in the play-off places I’ll treat that as a success.