POSH SPECIAL: Possible interference, player-sales and the manager-selection process
Peterborough United's highest-profile fan TalkSPORT presenter Adrian Durham has given his final thoughts on recent events and the season at whole to the Peterborough Telegraph.
He’s asking three key questions regarding club policy.
“It’s been a second successive disappointing season for Peterborough United, and it’s ending with my club ready to embark on a journey with a new manager, whoever that might be.
“Since I stood on the Glebe as a boy I have loved this club passionately. As a journalist I’ve enjoyed a good relationship with former Posh managers like John Still, Mick Halsall, Gary Johnson, Graham Westley and especially the late great Chris Turner.
“There was a love/hate thing going on with Barry Fry when he was manager, although we get on fine now. I’m still in contact with Mark Cooper, and I even used to enjoy getting phone calls from Steve Bleasdale.
“But however well I’ve known these individuals or respected them, I still always asked questions, and expressed my views to them openly and honestly. Most have been man enough to take it, although Mick Halsall did once ban me from London
Road. He soon saw sense, and you might have noticed a couple of videos on social media a couple of years ago of Mick Halsall sending me a lovely message to mark my 25th anniversary in the radio industry.
“They didn’t like the questions of course, but they respected me for having the balls to ask them, and not just being a suck-up to keep ‘in’ with the club I love.
“Same applies to the current Chairman. We’ve socialised, he’s told me stuff on and off the record, he’s entertained me in his office, I even invited him to my wedding last year (he couldn’t attend but sent a wonderful gift) and it’s all been appreciated.
“But I would never for one minute think that such a good relationship would ever stop me asking for answers about how the club is run.
“I’ve got three questions, but before I ask them let me stress yet again I worry about where the club would end up if he goes. So this isn’t a call for Darragh McAnthony to leave Posh. It’s only a couple of months ago I arranged for him to have three hours of national radio airtime (think how much that would cost in advertising) as he co-presented the Drive show on talkSPORT.
“I want a passionate football lover in charge of my club. I just want to make sure he runs the club as effectively as possible.
“So here are the 3 questions:
1) Does he interfere too much in the team?
“He’s openly said he doesn’t want the team to play with one up front, he wants young, hungry players, and he wants goals and attacking football. Not too much to ask on the face of it, but certainly stuff that if a manager doesn’t deliver, will mean he’s on thin ice at Posh.
“Graham Westley told me in his post-sacking interview that he felt the disagreement between him and Darragh over players was ‘destructive’ so who should be making those decisions?
“The manager you appoint, or the chairman, with the potential to over-ride what the manager feels is right? There are not many chairmen who would get such an easy ride off the fans for being so hands-on with the playing side. It shows how well-loved Darragh McAnthony is by the Posh faithful.
“But is it healthy? And has it contributed to the high turnover of managers at Posh?”
2) What would have happened had Conor Washington not been sold in January?
“We’re told the club HAD to sell Conor in January. If QPR had pulled out last minute, what would have happened to Posh without that income? I’ve asked two different people at the club this question, but neither has answered. One of them is the chairman.
“Posh are a small club, small crowds, and the chairman’s strategy of buy players cheap, improve them, sell big, is a policy I enjoy. Timing of sales is questionable, but it means we get to see some good football, and it’s a way of dealing with the obvious restrictions and obstacles involved with running a club the size of Posh.
“I think it’s a policy that managers should embrace. They get the chance to coach players, make them better and what could be more rewarding for them? But if the financial position at the club was so perilous that we had no choice but to sell a player for millions in January, I dread to think what would have happened had we not sold Conor.
“Some transparency with the fans is needed here. If we didn’t need to sell Conor then I’m sure we wouldn’t have. After all, the chairman said to me recently it’s a results business. Unless forced to, why would you sell a player who gives you a much better chance of getting results? Worrying.”
3) Is the selection process for new managers rigorous enough?
“Just seven months into Graham Westley’s time as manager, and he and the chairman are disagreeing over players? How did that happen? We’re told they had a good rapport, got on well and still get on well. But surely the strategy on players
should have been clear before a contract was signed? Did Westley change his mind? Did the chairman? Was it even discussed?
“In November Darragh went public with how much he loved Westley’s intensity. They talked so much Mrs McAnthony thought they were having an affair. He even said: ‘If I have to shovel stuff for this guy, I would.’ It all sounded perfect! But then they disagreed on players and it’s all over. Emotions talking a bit too much, maybe? Emotional reactions taking over, possibly? How do you go from that much positivity about a guy, to sacking him five months later?
“Maybe the extremities of McAnthony’s engaging and fascinating character need to be balanced by someone or something, I’m not sure what.
“Regardless of how they left the club, we know that Dave Robertson, Graham Westley, Mark Cooper and Jim Gannon all lasted months. We know we’re looking for a fourth manager in 14 months. As Grant McCann said this week, this is unacceptable.
“Before a manager is appointed, are enough issues discussed and the right questions asked by Darragh, Barry or whoever else is involved in the selection process? Or is it just the chairman making the call? Does he bounce it off anyone? Should he bounce it off others? Again maybe some transparency needed, to explain why the repeated failings. Or a bit of delegation of responsibility possibly.
“A club owner has every right to run it as he sees fit, but when he’s running it in a very hands-on way from another continent thousands of miles away then the right structure has to be in place to make that totally efficient. That’s not a dig at where Darragh is based, it’s an observation of an issue that might be contributing to the club’s current problems.
“Step back for a second, and go back to September. I was at Southend for Dave Robertson’s last game. I remember sending him a copy of Michael Calvin’s book about managers ‘Living On The Volcano’ days before that defeat at Roots Hall. The gift was designed to give Robertson a boost, a bit of strength, a bit of extra insight, maybe it would help him.
“I didn’t agree with his appointment but I sure as hell wasn’t going to stand by and just let the man suffer. If I could help in any small way I would. But by the time he sent me a message of thanks he had been sacked. Most fans understood why, myself included, and we wondered about the appointment in the first place.
“The chairman admitted it was a “lazy” choice. After making such an admission, how did Darragh then appoint Westley? If when Robertson went I’d have told you Posh would give the job to someone who’d failed in League One at Preston, and just been told his contract had not been renewed at League Two Stevenage, you’d have laughed in my face. But that’s what happened.
“Yes I know Westley very well, but as I’ve said, those personal relationships will never ever stop me giving my honest view and asking questions, and there are different ways of looking at his time at Stevenage and Preston, especially the latter.
“But when Westley called me to say he’d been to Florida and he’d got the Posh job I literally dropped my phone. Even when results were brilliant, I knew this would not end well.
“Too many sackings, inevitably leads to a question about the selection process. Does it need to change? The chairman’s Periscope sessions are legendary. He gets rightly praised for interaction with fans on Twitter, and the face-to-face season ticket persuasion recently was classic McAnthony. Ironic as well because at the same time as he was talking to people unsure of whether they want to support Posh next season. His tweets dodging my questions generated abuse towards me on Twitter, and I’m a guaranteed paying fan. Some reward, thanks!
“That charm means a lot of fans, not just of Posh, love Darragh. But it doesn’t mean fans shouldn’t ask questions. And that’s exactly what I’m doing here.
“Under Darragh McAnthony’s leadership the club has been brilliant to follow. Good football, success, love it! I remember one of his private rants towards the end of Fergie’s second spell. I simply told him to sit down and watch the win at
Wembley, enjoy the good times. And he did.
“I love his determination and desire for Peterborough United, and I wish more fans shared his ambition. He loves football and it’s infectious. I stress yet again for the hard of thinking – I definitely don’t want him to go. But does he need to do things a little bit differently, to be more effective.
“Let’s play out the season, draw a line, start again, and hopefully Darragh and the new manager can get us back on track.”