Peterborough United playing legend David Farrell has landed his dream job.
The man who made 388 Posh appearances in a 10-year spell at London Road, and who scored the greatest hat-trick in the club’s history in a play-off semi-final against Barnet in May, 2000, is managing the Under 18 side at the ABAX Stadium.
The 45 year-old reckons it’s the toughest job he’s had - league position suggests as much as Posh are currently bottom of the South-East Youth Alliance table - but he insists he’s thriving under the pressure of producing first-team Posh players of the future. A necessity for clubs in the lower divisions.
There’s an irony considering Farrell became a professional footballer through the non-league route rather than through an Academy, but if anyone knows what it takes to become a success at Posh it’s a winger who regularly dazzled the London Road faithful.
And he’s putting in the hours to help the ambitions of others become a reality.
“I’m usually in my office at 7.30am five days a week and there are usually games on a Saturday,” Farrell revealed. “There’s a lot of work involved on and off the field, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m thriving on the responsibility and I’m loving every minute of it.
“It’s the job I always wanted. I just wish I had been given a bit more time to prepare as we were already three weeks into pre-season when Jack (Collison) left and I was asked to take over.
“I was thrilled though. Last season I was helping Grant McCann and the first team by watching future opponents so I was spending far too much time on the M62.
“This season I was given the role of head coach at the Academy. I was basically overseeing the other coaches, but there was so much paperwork and computer work, I wasn’t really enjoying it.
“Obviously my role now is to help players develop so they can gain professional contracts. When that happens for the first time - and I hope the first one isn’t too far away - it will be a great feeling for me.
“I have an excellent group of lads. They are all very grounded and they all know how hard it is to go from an Academy to a professional contract. I read the other day that only 0.12% of all first year pros are still in the Football League at the age of 21.
“I told the lads this the other day and the statistic proves you have to work hard for every minute of every day to make the most of this opportunity. We drum this into the players all the time.
“Results haven’t been great this season, but they are not the be all and end all at under 18 level. Obviously results are what people remember and we want to be winning more games, but as the manager you can be satisfied by a very good performance even if it only leads to a draw or even a defeat. You want evidence of the players learning, of them taking on board what we ask them to do.
“We tend to keep the lads on the training pitch for three-to-four hours now. It’s more than they were used to last season, but it’s the right thing to do.
“Grant McCann takes a keen interest in what we’re doing. I send him a report on every match. It’s all very thorough.”
Understandably Farrell, who is assisted by highly-rated Academy coach Sam Darlow, wasn’t keen on naming the players under his care who are closest to earning a professional contract, but he’s aware of media speculation surrounding midfielder Luke Strachan. The Birmingham press claimed recently both Birmingham City and Aston Villa were monitoring the progress of the son of former Posh midfielder Gavin Strachan.
Farrell managed the club’s under 23 team last season and will assist first-team coach David Oldfield when that team play cup matches. They haven’t entered a league this season.
And there is one competition Farrell is keen to see improved results this season.
“We’ve lost to non-league opposition in the last two FA Youth Cups,” Farrell said. “We want to put that right by having a good run this season.”