A good guy, a terrific footballer, but a very average manager, left Peterborough United last night (February 25).
Grant McCann’s name will be fondly remembered at the ABAX Stadium for his performances as a midfield maestro. His time as the boss, the man in charge of the playing style, the formations, and, presumably, the signings will be quickly forgotten. For his sake I hope that’s the case.
He should always be a Posh hero, but nice men and playing stars don’t always become successful bosses and very little in the last two seasons has suggested McCann was going to deliver Championship football to a demanding chairman and a fanbase that became increasingly aggressive as mid-table obscurity started to look a certainty for the third League One campaign in a row.
I championed McCann’s appointment and I don’t regret it. At least a man with a passion for Posh took over and had a go. The logic insisted a man who played with style and grace would at least promote entertaining football. He might have promoted it, but he didn’t achieve it. Not often enough anyway.
Damningly the football for the first six months of Graham Westley’s reign generated far more excitement than 22 months of McCann. Mockingly and insensitively some supporters had started calling him Grant McCann’t
It’s a shame it didn’t work out, but it’s without doubt the right decision to let him go now.
The League One table suggests Posh are still right in the thick of the race for the play-offs, but recent performances tell a different story. Saturday’s display against AFC Wimbledon gave encouragement to those who believe the dressing room had lost confidence in their leader so a change was inevitable, if the chairman remained serious about promotion this season. I guess he answered that question last night before jetting off for a family holiday in Dubai.
McCann had been given every chance. He’s been the manager for four successive transfer windows when no major asset has been sold. MacAnthony loves to talk money and letting it be known earlier this month he’d spent £1.4 million on this season’s push for promotion was effectively a shot across the management’s bows. Three players arrived in January, to supplement rather than replace stars like Marcus Maddison and Jack Marriott, and all three started on the bench on Saturday when Posh delivered a witless, lifeless effort - a rather fitting end to a reign that rarely convinced.
Under McCann it’s been confused thinking, constant tinkering and poor planning. The decision to start this season with three centre-backs and two wing-backs worked for a month even though Posh had no-one in the playing squad with experience of wing-back play. The midfield diamond was employed far too often last season and playing one central striker against the likes of Wimbledon in recent weeks was simply baffling. Maddison’s quality and Marriott’s goals have carried this team and the manager for too long.
And McCann never gave the impression he could change a game in a positive way. His failure to alter the flow of the recent home match against Scunthorpe showed a worrying lack of nous. His substitutions also too often affected Posh in a negative way - Junior Morias as a midfielder for a start - and his arms-folded-look on the sidelines portrayed a man of inaction rather than someone cool and in control.
These foibles could be accepted by a rookie boss, but McCann simply wasn’t learning from his mistakes, despite the presence of a wise head in David Oldfield alongside him.
And like it or not, in these days of Twitter, youtube videos and Facebook Live, press conferences count for a fair bit with supporters. McCann never grasped that and spent too long quoting statistics which often flattered and deceived. He liked to count home FA Cup draws with non-league sides Tranmere and Woking in his brags about unbeaten runs. Only the other day he was talking about two defeats in 11 matches when one League One win 2018 was far more relevant.
There have been bright spots. McCann deserves credit for taking Marriott from Luton Town’s substitutes’ bench and turning him into League One’s deadliest striker. McCann’s perfect three wins from three games against local rivals Northampton is also a reason for generous applause and the performance at Aston Villa in the FA Cup in January was quite outstanding, but there have been too many Gillinghams, Blackpools, Oldhams and Burys along the way.
I believe MacAnthony when he says he wrestled hard with this decision and I hope the players he has left behind feel guilty enough about their part in McCann’s downfall to raise a gallop for the final 13 matches.