Peterborough United chairman lifts the lid on the amazing transfer of Ephron Mason-Clark to Coventry City
Andy Turner of the Coventry Telegraph transcribed it all. It’s a fascinating read of a long, beer-fuelled night after a frustrating flight with no wifi!
Posh reportedly agreed a fee with Coventry of £5 million for a player they signed from Barnet for £130k in August, 2022. They reduced that fee by £750k to get him back on loan.
Barnet are due a seven-figure sell-on payment.
MacAntony said: “I had offers from Coventry in my inbox which had been sent at ten in the morning when I took off from the States, and there were deadlines in it and everything else, and they were blown because I didn’t get any emails because there was no Wi-Fi on the flight, even though I had upgraded to first class.
“Coventry had already reached out to us a couple of weeks before and their owner Dou King is a good guy, a great guy, and they have got Dean Austin doing the deals. They’d invited Barry Fry down there to have a coffee, get to know him and start a relationship. So Barry rang me and asked what he should do, and I told him to go because it was obviously about one of our players. It’s good to have a really good relationship with good clubs.
“Coventry are a club on the up and are going to be in the Premier League eventually. With all due respect, they are a bigger club than us so, down the line, if they are back in the Premier League, and under this owner I think they will be, it’s great to have that relationship. We’ve got that with Luton and Brentford as well.
"So I said to Baz to go and have a coffee and he rang me on the way back and said that they really want Ephron and also they like a couple of our other players as well. I said, ‘I don’t want to sell Ephron’. I didn’t want to tell my manager that I was selling one of my front four because A, he’d probably assassinate me and B, probably walk. But Darren (Ferguson) always knew the situation.
“So anyway, Coventry came in with an offer, led by Doug, and then I went back to them and said, ‘look guys, we are so appreciative of the offer and I don’t want to sound ungrateful but A, it’s no to that offer and B, if you do want to buy him it’s a loan back, because we’re not losing him. And if we were going to sell him without a loan back it would be ridiculous numbers. But we’ll have to get a replacement.
“So they made a couple more bids leading up to it. I went backwards and forwards with Doug. I dealt with him direct on emails etc and I had given him scenario A and scenario B. Scenario A was a higher number, that they’d taken, but I didn’t want that. So scenario B was a lower number and we get Ephron back.
“Darren asked me the day before deadline day what I thought was going to happen and I told him not to worry, that we were not doing anything with Ephron. There was a day to go. We had two replacements that we’d thought about, but we couldn’t get them that late. I got on my flight and thought nothing of it.
“But I got off the flight and there was another offer from Coventry. My driver took me home because I had not seen my wife and kids for four weeks. It was six o’clock US time and 11 o’clock UK time. I had a chat with Baz and told him he had to go back and tell Coventry the offer. It was late in the day, there’s a day to go. This isn’t going to happen.
"My pitch to them was ‘take it, do a deal. I don’t want any money now, you can pay in the summer but I want him back on loan.’ That’s more important than the money. It was actually three quarters of a million less than I was suggesting because I wanted the player. And I said, ‘you’re getting a player I want more money for in the summer and you are getting him at today’s price.’ They were kind of against that.
“Then I got a message on my phone from the Coventry owner and he asked if it was OK if he called me. At this point I had had seven beers because I hadn’t seen my misses and hadn’t drank for a month.
“So I messaged him and said ‘I am going to warn you, I have had quite a few drinks.’ So anyway, he rang me and we had a really good chat for about 40 minutes. We spoke about football, what happened to them last year in the play-offs, we spoke about the deal, about Ephron and what it would take to get it done.
“I said, ‘look Doug, it’s late in the day, I want him back because I don’t want to let him out of the building.’ And he was relentless. I said let’s just leave it but my advice was to buy him and loan him back to us. You know, they get him in the summer - one of the best players outside the Prem. He’ll score another ten goals and be player of the year in League One, and I’m going to ask for more money.
“He already couldn’t believe what I was asking for, but this is what we do at Peterborough. Obviously the player and his agent know all about it and they want to go, of course they do. It’s a big pay cheque for him; life changing. It’s a big move, but at the same time Ephron was brilliant as he didn’t cause a ruck.
“He didn’t do what previous players have done by saying I’m not playing, I’m going on strike. Anyway, then I got a message at 1.30am my time, from Doug again, and he was like, ‘this, this, this and this,’ and I was like, this is crazy. So I went back to him and said option A is this, but only if we can get a replacement. And I am kind of running out of time. I am going to be up at 6am my time, which was 11am UK time. In the meantime I emailed Barry to tell him to try to find replacements.
“If we can get the replacement we have identified, we’ll let him go. If we can’t, I’ll say no and don’t let him out of the building. So I got up after three hours sleep and rang Barry to ask how he was getting on with replacements and he said, ‘no chance, the club wants too much money.
“So I let Coventry know and they were obviously upset with me but they did everything in their power to get him permanently. The player, at this stage, was ‘I want to go.’ I rang Darren who asked me what I was going to do because it’s a massive amount of money. People were quoting £3m/£.3.5m. But it’s more.
“So I told Darren I am not letting him leave. Nobody in League One would have done that. Nobody would have turned down what we turned down. And I did it because I didn’t want to stop what we are doing (in the league). Even though we are trying to sort out bills, I just feel something special is going on and I didn’t want that to leave the building.
“As the day progressed, the Coventry owner messaged me again and I just apologised and told them I couldn’t get a replacement. But again, I went back to option B. I said it’s less money, you don’t have to pay me until the summer or onwards. I don’t care, I just want the player back.
“They went, ‘no’ and then I have the same Championship club in the summer (believed to be Swansea) start bidding for Ronnie Edwards. So this is at 5pm (on deadline day). I’m sat in my diary room and I have got two phones, my English phone and my American phone. Barry rings me and says Plan B is on with Coventry. It’s five o’clock. Then he rings me ten minutes later and says it’s not on.
“In the meantime we’re trying to get a right-back. Then Barry rang me at eight o’clock and said Coventry want to do Plan B, so I say OK. But now you have got the player needing to do a medical, the paperwork but the most important thing was that until I saw the documents for the loan signing I wasn’t signing anything. It’s not that I don’t trust them, but if that gets lost with the EFL and I’m losing the player, the loan paperwork gets lost and I am losing a player for less money. I’m taking no money now and suddenly it’s a race against time.
“How I didn’t have a heart attack from the 22 coffees and everything going on. I swear to you, I had something like 188 phone calls in seven hours. It was just mad. But we probably had more offers for our players than any club in the football league.
“I felt when the deal was done that we did great by the player, which was for less money. The player got his move, we got him back and we did great by Coventry, and I really think he’ll blossom there with Mark Robins.”