Twelve months ago, Posh had suffered a traumatic season being relegated from the Championship after only one season and having had an amazing 4 different managers in one season! Not surprisingly, there weren’t too many Posh fans who would’ve envisaged that they would be back in the Championship so soon, except that is, for the ever optimistic and ambitious chairman, Darragh MacAnthony!
That is exactly where they find themselves now though after winning the 2010/11 League One Play-Off Final against highly fancied Huddersfield Town at Old Trafford.
Last season started off very up and down with manager Gary Johnson bringing in some new players and having a different approach to the game and a laid back personality.
Despite the team always having the backing of the fans, many became disillusioned over team selections and tactics. Johnson became frustrated as well by the differing performances and results Posh were achieving and took a long hard look at the situation and was only persuaded to stay on as manager after talking to various people, including chairman MacAnthony.
Things failed to improve so it was no great surprise that Johnson parted company with Posh. The next incumbent as manager took everyone by surprise though. The return of back-to-back promotion winning manager Darren Ferguson! The fans seemed to be split down the middle over the appointment of Ferguson and it would take something extraordinary to win the hearts and minds back of the doubters. Things did improve very quickly and a play-off spot was soon to be confirmed against close rivals MK Dons.
Having seen off a stubborn MK Dons, Posh now found themselves up against Huddersfield who were on a 28 game unbeaten run! It had to end somewhere and fortunately for Posh, it did in the Play-Off Final with Posh running out 3-0 winners.
Minds soon started to focus on the coming season though with many players being released from the squad or put up for sale. Barry Fry, the Director of Football at Posh, had his work cut-out to get rid of the players deemed not required and bring in the 12 players identified by Ferguson.
Of the departing players, it was widely known that one person leaving the club was the League One Player of the Year, Craig Mackail-Smith.
Losing someone of CMS’s ability, energy and goal-scoring ability to what was widely expected to be a Premiership team was going to leave a massive hole in the Posh forward department. Norwich who had had a bid turned down in January for CMS, were expected to return with another bid, but this failed to materialise.
Newly promoted QPR were also interested in the services of Englands leading marksman from last season, but rumours of internal differences between the manager Neil Warnock and the owners meant that no bid was forthcoming.
A number of clubs had registered an interest in CMS, but only Leicester and West Ham seemed to be prepared to bid for him. Leicester City had a bid accepted for him but with Sven Goran Eriksson on holiday and unwilling to cut it short to meet up with CMS, it gave the opportunity for a surprise package, in the form of Brighton and Hove Albion, who themselves had been promoted with Posh from League One as Champions, a chance of stealing a march on Leicester.
And steal a march they did. Within the space of just over 24 hours, Brighton had had a bid accepted, CMS had met up at the new AMEX stadium with Gus Poyet and duly signed a contract! Many Posh fans were disappointed not seeing their idol signing for a Premiership team or at worst, a team expected to challenge for promotion to the Premiership, but they were pleased for him, signing the deal he wanted, after the service he has provided Posh for the past 4 years. In hindsight, Brighton could end up being one of the dark horses this season and I wouldn’t be surprised if they made it to the play-offs.
On the arrivals side of things, many of the players identified by Fergie Jnr seemed to either turn us down for one reason or another, even after bids had been accepted, or our bids weren’t good enough for their existing clubs. How much of this could’ve been in the knowledge that Posh had a lot of money coming in from the CMS sale, no one really knows?
So far, only 5 players have signed on the dotted line with two of these being loan signings! Goalkeeper Paul Jones, who had spent the previous 6 months on loan at Posh and who starred in the Play-Offs signed a one year contract. Craig Alcock has also been brought in to bolster the defence while we’ve got 3 players from Manchester United; defender Scott Wootton and midfielder Ryan Tunnicliffe have both arrived on loans while £300k has been spent to bring in forward Nicky Ajose (pictured below).
The squad for the coming season is far from complete and no doubt will be added to before the end of the transfer window and possibly again in the January transfer window.
However, even with the loss of our leading marksmen, things look bright with the team that is taking shape.
There is more Championship experience in the squad compared to our last brief encounter and although we are sticking with our tried and trusted transfer policy of bringing in young and hungry players from the non-league, which we’ve now altered slightly by bringing in young and hungry players from the lower league, the squad is potentially stronger than last time.
Defenders Ryan Bennett and Gabriel Zakuani formed a strong defensive partnership in the latter half of last season and along with Wootton, Posh have 3 good central defenders. However, it’s the left and right back positions we struggle with. Mark Little is good at marauding up the wing but is often caught out defensively at right back. Craig Alcock has been brought in to challenge Littles spot and I wouldn’t like to say who’ll get the nod for the starting berth against our first opponents Crystal Palace.
In midfield, we have the experienced Grant McCann who pulls the strings, Tommy Rowe is a workhorse going about his business and then there is the silky George Boyd, who was the recent transfer target of Burnley who had 2 bids turned down by Posh. Add in Tunnicliffe, who Paul Scholes this week said that he was an exceptional talent, and Lee Tomlin with his tricks and vision who can play in midfield or up front, Posh have a midfield capable of competing in the Championship.
Having scored 106 goals last season, there is a massive question as to how we can fill the boots of CMS and indeed, Aaron MacLean, who also started last season on Posh’s books before being sold to Hull City. It would be impossible and unfair to view any new forward as a direct replacement for either player, but with the addition of Ajose, who had an impressive loan period at Bury last season; Paul Taylor, who could be a very good player if Fergie and co. can iron out a few things and the returning Dave Hibbert complementing the energetic David Ball, the “goals for” column should stay healthy.
The forthcoming season should hold no fears for Posh this season, but it is a massive season that could determine whether Posh turn in to a yo-yo team bouncing between the Championship and League One or whether they can consolidate themselves and become an experienced Championship team. No doubt there will be many twists and turns as the season progresses and it could be a long hard struggle for Posh, but if there is one thing you can be sure of, it’s that you’ll get entertained at Posh matches.
Photos courtesy of http://www.theposhpics.com