Darragh MacAnthony: ‘A ghost is exorcised, Operation Vengeance a roaring success, our ‘Aguero’ moment, retirement considered, my best promotion, an incredible trifecta and a calm and professional manager’

Posh co-owner Darragh MacAnthony insists his club can finally put the ‘ghost’ of Crystal Palace to bed after securing a dramatic promotion back to the Championship yesterday (May 1).

Sunday, 2nd May 2021, 9:24 am
Posh co-owners Darragh MacAnthony and Dr Jason Neale (right) celebrate promotion the Championship. Photo: David Lowndes.

Eight years ago Posh suffered the agony of a last-gasp defeat at Palace on the final day of the Championship season, one that confirmed relegation to League One.

Yesterday Posh finally sealed their return to the second tier after a stunning fightback from 0-3 down to promotion rivals Lincoln City at the Weston Homes Stadium. Jonson Clarke-Harris slammed home a 96th minute penalty to clinch a 3-3 draw and the point Posh needed to confirm a top two finish.

For MacAnthony, who was celebrating a fourth Posh promotion of his time at London Road, it was vindication of labelling the 2020-21 season ‘Operation Vengeance’ (in response to the unsatisfactory way the 2019-20 season finished) before the fixtures had even been released, although after an hour of the game against Lincoln he was contemplating retirement from football!

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Posh players celebrate promotion with fans outside the Weston Homes Stadium. Photo: David Lowndes.

“Go back eight years and going down to the final kick,” MacAnthony recalled. “Well, we’ve finally put that ghost to bed with a last-minute scenario of our own. It was our ‘Aguero’ moment.

“We’ve earned this promotion. It’s the best of my four promotions in 14 years or so without a doubt. No-one handed it us. There was no vote to get us up. We did it on the pitch.

“All I wanted to get us back to the Championship. I took a lot of abuse last season for being the figurehead of the clubs who wanted to play on. I was right as well as it was safe to play on.

“I feel responsible for what happens to the club, but we knew we had to get up this season. This was the time to do it. It was now or never. We recruited well and the players really dug deep to get us over the line. They’ve sweated blood and tears this season.

Posh stars Nathan Thompson (right) and Jack Taylor celebrate promotion to the Championship. Photo: David Lowndes.

“The football Gods are strange. We messed up against Doncaster on Tuesday and when we went 3-0 down against Lincoln I was done with football. I’m an emotional guy. That’s what I’m like.

“We were actually playing okay before we fell behind. We had the better chances, but we then conceded a penalty and when we went 3-0 down the cheering of the fans outside stopped.

“I heard a murmer at 3-1 and then cheering started again at 3-2, but when Jonson hit the bar from a yard I thought our chance had gone. And then we were like frozen in time as we got a penalty in the last minute. What a moment and what b**** Jonson has got to take and score that penalty.

“I didn’t fancy us getting anything from Doncaster next weekend as they always raise their game against us so I’m delighted for everyone to get it done now.

“Our manager (Darren Ferguson) has been so calm and professional in a difficult season and he and Mark Robson (assistant manager) and the rest of their team deserve all the credit.

“I’m so pleased that my co-owners Randy (Stewart Thompson) and Jason (Neale) have experienced their first promotion and what a trfecta we’ve pulled off with promotion, an improved Academy status and the stadium coming back under our control. To do all that in a pandemic is an incredible achievement.

“And the only ‘gutter’ is not having our fans in the stadium with us. They will be back in August and I can’t wait.”