20 YEARS OF BARRY FRY: An irresistible Posh partnership
It's September 2007 and Darragh MacAnthony has purchased Peterborough United.
Barry Fry was now a far more relaxed figure, but he didn’t envisage the amount of success the club was about to enjoy.
Fry recalled: “Darragh inherited Keith Alexander as manager. A great man and a good manager, but Darragh didn’t think he was going to take us forward as quickly as he wanted.
“He asked me about alternatives and I had a hunch about Darren Ferguson.
“I’d tried to get Darren to come and work as a playercoach for Posh when he was at Wrexham. I tried to get him as a player at Birmingham when he was at Wolves.
“I knew he wanted to be a manager. He’d been doing his coaching badges and running youth teams at Wrexham.
“Out of the blue Sir Alex Ferguson rang up. He told me Wrexham had just got rid of Dennis Smith, but they hadn’t even offered Darren an interview to become manager. Darren had been club captain for nine years and he’d been coaching kids at the club.
“Sir Alex said it was a good time to speak to him so I put Darren on the phone with Darragh and they hit it off instantly.
“They spoke for an hour and Darragh was impressed that he didn’t mention his dad once and he didn’t mention a salary. He explained how he would win promotion using modern coaching methods.
“Within a minute of the conversation ending, Darragh ordered me to give Darren the job. Both were adamant they’d soon be winning promotions, but I wasn’t so sure! They were both a bit naive I thought.
“But we had found an irresistible partnership. Darragh was 29, had boundless energy and enthusiasm and Darren was ambitious and dedicated. There were some top players at the club when he arrived, but Darren brought the best out of them.
“The back-to-back promotions were obviously fantastic times, but both Darragh and Darren became big-headed. They thought success was going to be guaranteed.
“When results started to go bad, they stopped talking to each other and a split became inevitable.It was a terrible end to a perfect partnership.
“We fiddled around with a few more managers, but nothing worked. Gary Johnson came in and did a good job, but his relationship with Darragh soured. They stopped speaking as well and Darragh decided he wanted Darren back. He wanted me to sort it, but I refused saying the pair had to sort their own differences out. I hadn’t fallen out with Darren in the first place.
“Eventually they met again for the first time since Darren had left us at Darragh’s house in Ascot and apparently it quickly became emotional. They had a cuddle, shed a few tears and a couple of hours later Darragh rang me and ordered me to sack Gary!
“Gary was as good as gold about it. I am pleased he went on to do well, and of course delighted that Darren’s return proved so successful.”
“That League One play-off final at Old Trafford against a Huddersfield side who were hot favourites to win was a highlight of the last decade.
“It was special for me as I’d been a player at Manchester United. Winning a big game there made some of the hassle I’d in the first 10 years at Posh seem worthwhile.
“For Darragh and Darren it was also a dream come true. They’d been through so much together and they’d come out the other side as winners.
“It was just a shame that we couldn’t sustain a place in the Championship for longer. The chairman and Darren deserved it. Darren never recovered from that dramatic relegation from the Championship, and the chairman had to talk him out of resigning there and then.”
“The last 10 years at Posh has been an absolute delight, an absolute pleasure.
“I have loved working with Darragh. I have never met anyone so passionate and committed to a club.
“He does get down now and again and I have to pick him up, but he’s achieved so muich with three promotions, a playoff final win at Old Trafford, and a JPT win at Wembley.
“And he hasn’t finished yet. I don’t doubt that he will oversee more success.”
More Fry bits will appear online at www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk tomorrow (June 4).