Peterborough United have taken a risk in re-appointing Darren Ferguson, but it might just work

Peterborough United have been here before in Darragh MacAnthony’s reign.

Saturday, 26th January 2019, 7:27 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 7:15 pm
Posh chairman Darragh MacAnthony (left) and manager Darren Ferguson celebrate promotion from League One in April, 2009.
Posh chairman Darragh MacAnthony (left) and manager Darren Ferguson celebrate promotion from League One in April, 2009.

Posh were seventh in League One in January, 2011 when Gary Johnson, another experienced manager with many promotions on his CV, was given the old heave-ho so that Darren Ferguson could return. It worked then. A thrilling promotion and a couple of exciting years in the Championship followed.

Will it work again? Who knows? Ferguson walked away from Doncaster Rovers last summer believing they didn’t have a budget to compete at the top end of League One. Grant McCann, sacked by MacAnthony just under 12 months ago, now has Doncaster in seventh place with a game in hand which could take them above Posh. It’s a small and most competitive world.

MacAnthony has made nine managerial appointments in his 12 years at Posh. Five undoubtedly failed, while Johnson, and now Steve Evans, could argue they were unfortunate to be fired based on bare statistics. The two successes? Darren Ferguson, twice. Plucked from coaching a Wrexham youth team to oversee back to back promotions from League Two to the Championship between 2007-2009 Ferguson was bombed when the team slipped to the bottom of the Championship the following season before that memorable return a couple of years later.

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Darragh MacAnthony (left) and Darren Ferguson after the latter returned for a second spell as Posh manager.

Ferguson is the most successful manager in the club’s history. No-one else has won three promotions with Posh, not even the legend with a statue outside the ground.

Ferguson was fortunate to inherit some excellent players signed by his predecessor Keith Alexander, but he turned them into top quality entertainers. Don’t take my word for it, ask Craig Mackail-Smith, George Boyd and Aaron Mclean what they thought of Ferguson’s coaching/management. They have all consistently credited their former boss with making great improvements to their games.

Ferguson also almost engineered the great escape from Championship relegation in 2013. Posh lost their first seven league games that season and yet were relegated by a 90th-minute goal with a record number of points. That last-gasp disappointment drained Ferguson and he should have left Posh then rather than soldier on for another 22 months. He continued out of respect for his chairman and for the club.

This special relationship between MacAnthony and Ferguson makes this rather rushed, and some would say illogical, switch more understandable. It’s a gamble though. MacAnthony must be confident of a lightening of the mood Manchester United enjoyed when Jose Mourinho departed, although nothing in today’s performance against Charlton suggested Evans had lost the dressing room. Posh were a saved penalty kick away from losing at home to a strong Charlton side, but to a man the players were committed and honest.

It appears even a win wouldn’t have saved Evans though. The chairman’s mind, and presumably his new-ish Canadian partners agreed, had been made up with a disappointing Checkatrade Trophy departure at a half-strength Portsmouth side the final straw, after which MacAnthony appeared to question his manager’s tactics.

But why now? Ferguson’s been available since July. Why let Evans sign an astonishing 22 players in one-and-a-half transfer windows? He’s signed four players in the current window and now they will be managed by someone with a completely different footballing philosophy. The ball-players should be pleased at least. Lee Tomlin, a star of Fergie’s second spell in charge, will be delighted.

It’s unlikely Evans’ regular run-ins with officials had a bearing on today’s decision. His replacement is no stranger to FA disciplinary panels. The sort of antics Evans has delivered on the sidelines are nothing new and nor is his desire to see the ball moved forward more quickly than other managers. The surprise is not so much why pure football loving MacAnthony sacked Evans, but why he appointed him in the first place and why he tweeted in December that one of his highlights of 2018 was ‘appointing a multi-promotion winning manager’.

It’s unlikely the fact noisy members of the Posh fanbase have never accepted Evans will have influenced anything. Initial reaction to news broken by the Peterborough Telegraph has been mixed with joy and bewilderment alike. Some have cracked open the champagne, others think returning to Fergie, who has watched Posh twice recently, will prove a backward step. We will see soon enough. Fergie from 2011 could well get Posh up. Eight years on he may even be wiser. Hopefully he is as hungry for success as the players he used to sign for the club were.