Mutual respect between two Peterborough United heroes as they prepare to do battle in a big game

Grant McCann (left) and Darren Ferguson (centre) celebrate their League One play-off final triumph with Posh at Old Trafford in 2011.
Grant McCann (left) and Darren Ferguson (centre) celebrate their League One play-off final triumph with Posh at Old Trafford in 2011.
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Two Peterborough United heroes go head-to-head in a huge League One match on Saturday (February 9).

Grant McCann’s Doncaster Rovers host a Peterborough United side now under the managerial care of Darren Ferguson for a third time at the Keepmoat Stadium. Last season the roles were reversed as Ferguson managed Doncaster to two draws with McCann’s Posh.

Gramt McCann and Darren Ferguson lead Posh out for the League One play-off final against Huddersfield at Old Trafford in May, 2011.

Gramt McCann and Darren Ferguson lead Posh out for the League One play-off final against Huddersfield at Old Trafford in May, 2011.

McCann was a star player in Ferguson’s last Posh promotion winning team of 2010-11 and the mutual professional respect is obvious from their pre-match interviews by the Peterborough Telegraph and the Doncaster Free Press.

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Darren Ferguson, who returns to the Keepmoat on his 47th birthday for the first time since his departure last summer, said: “Doncaster are a great club with good people involved.

“I loved my time there and left last summer on good terms as I needed a break from the game. The situation with my father (Sir Alex Ferguson fell seriously ill last year) took a lot out of me. There were no hard feelings on either side when I decided to leave.

Grant McCann celebrates a goal for Posh against MK Dons in the 2011 League One play-off semi-final at London Road.

Grant McCann celebrates a goal for Posh against MK Dons in the 2011 League One play-off semi-final at London Road.

“It was disappointing to suffer a relegation from League One in my first season there, but we won promotion from League Two straight away and then consolidated back in League One the following season.

“The plan was always to have a go at promotion to the Championship this season and, although I felt I couldn’t go on, I am pleased they are doing so well.

“I’m not surprised either. A lot of their players have been together a long time so they are a very close-knit group and Grant has added some excellent loan players. Herbie Kane (Liverpool) and Mallik Wilks (Leeds United) in particular.

“I’m also not surprised Grant has been successful either. When he was playing for me I always suspected he would become an excellent coach and I knew he wouldn’t be afraid to make difficult decisions which every manager has to do.

“Me and Grant go back a long way. He was an outstanding player for me at Peterborough. He scored in both legs of a play-off semi-final and then in the play-off final when we won promotion to the Championship which shows an impressive big-game mentality.

“Obviously I’ve come up against him before as a manager. We fought out two competitive draws last season. I also watched the game between the teams at the ABAX Stadium in September which finished as a draw although Doncaster were the better team that day. They played very well.

“Whatever happens on Saturday I’m sure me and Grant will have a glass of wine together.

“It’s my birthday as well. I always look at the games around my birthday when the fixtures come out and I had a chuckle when I saw it was Doncaster versus Posh, even though I was without a club at the time.

“I told my wife who couldn’t understand why I was bothered as I wouldn’t be involved. It’s weird how things work out sometimes.”

Posh look set to be backed by close to 1,500 fans at Saturday’s match.

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Grant McCann, who was sacked by Posh just under 12 months ago, admits Ferguson was a massive influence on his career.

“I probably played my best football of my career under Darren when he came to Peterborough,” McCann stated.

“And he had a huge part to play in my coaching as well, putting me in to coach the under 15s as part of the last contract that I signed at Peterborough.

“I’ve got nothing but respect for Darren and Gavin Strachan (the new Posh coach). It’s nice to see them back in football and I hope they do well for Peterborough - after Saturday!

“There’s obviously going to be a change of philosophy from the way Steve Evans played to how Darren Ferguson plays.

“We’ve seen that in the games that he’s been involved in. There’s a lot more movement and creation than there has been.

“I know they didn’t score in the last game, but they had a man sent off. They’ve recruited well, they’ve probably spent the most money in the division and they should be in the top six with the amount of money that Darragh McAnthony has spent.

“Darren changed their system to a diamond which he played a lot here at Doncaster. Whether he comes with a diamond here or not we’ll see.

“We’ll prepare for one or two ways he may go so nothing is a surprise to us when we see his team on Saturday.

“It doesn’t really interest me what Peterborough are doing. I’m only interested in us and all I can see is another tough game.

“We’ve shown against the top six we can compete against them. Sunderland beat us and Charlton beat us when we were very disappointing, but we should have won the rest of the games really.

“It’s all fine margins. This group know they can match the top teams and we’ve got to show that over the remaining 17 games.”