The 2014/15 season began with so much promise, and optimism. The players brought in were exactly what fans had wanted, and what the team had been crying out for. Reports of team spirit being at an all time high gave fans hope that this will be their season. But, 16 games into the season, the feelings of overwhelming optimism have given way to familiar feelings of negativity, and a sense of last seasons winter capitulation returning early.
It started off with feelings of extreme satisfaction. Five wins from the first six league games cemented pre-season”s optimism. Close, yet comfortable wins against Rochdale, MK Dons, Bradford, Colchester and Port Vale saw Posh sitting comfortably in the top two. More positives rained down from these performances. The attacking football, that was promised to return by Darragh MacAnthony and Darren Ferguson, appeared to be back. The club even christened themselves, somewhat arrogantly, “The Entertainers”.
More promising young talent began to emerge from the club. Christian Burgess, a man who was initially only brought in as cover for Gabriel Zakuani on an emergency loan from Middlesbrough, has gone on to cement a position in the back line of the London Road club, and formed an instantly impressive partnership with Jack Baldwin. A run of grand performances against Port Vale and Bradford City quickly cemented the domineering centre-back as a fans favourite.
Kyle Vassell, who was in supreme goal-scoring form in pre-season, had many question marks hovering above him of whether he could transfer that into competitive football, and more ambitiously, whether he could fill the monumental scoring boots left by Britt Assombalonga. The former Bishop”s Stortford man scored six goals in Peterborough”s first six league games, so yes, he could. Vassell had also proved his versatility within those first six games. Goals were finished cooly, powerfully, with his head and of course, tap-ins; a type of goal that every good striker can score.
Then along came Mr Maddison, Marcus Maddison that is. The former Gateshead midfielder impressed right from the off, after signing at the end of August. After coming on as a substitute against Colchester United, Maddison played an integral part in Posh”s third goal, sliding a perfect pass through to Conor Washington who squared the ball for Jermaine Anderson to tap-in his first for the club. On his home online casino debut, Maddison netted his first goal in the Johnstone”s Paint Trophy first round tie against Leyton Orient. Another stunning goal followed in a 3-1 victory at home to Port Vale. Collecting a Ricardo Santos throw, Maddison volleyed the ball across goal and into the top corner. Maddison”s free-kick technique has also been a revelation at London Road.
The 21-year-old draws claims to be inspired more by Gareth Bale and David Luiz, rather than Cristiano Ronaldo. He tends to nonchalantly jog up to the ball and side-foot the ball. The dip that he gets on the ball is extraordinary. Near identical free-kicks were scored against Oldham, and Barnsley. Both of which started 30-yards-out, and were both fired into the far top corner. The latter appeared to be sailing comfortably over until a vicious dip about a yard from the goal meant it instead nestled in the top-corner.
So, with all these positives, you would perhaps be excused for believing that Posh fans do not have reason to complain. You would, however, be mistaken.
Injuries have been a recurring theme in nearly every Darren Ferguson post-match interview this season. All in all, 13 Posh players have spent time on the sidelines, with lay-offs ranging from one or two days, to one year! Another staggering injury statistic is, that out of the 16 league games played this season, 12 of them have resulted in forced substitutions through injury.
It is, however, hard to believe that these can all be pinned on bad luck. Fans have started to question whether the club has been cursed, and are asking what we have done wrong to deserve this injury crisis. But I feel more and more of the fan base are starting to grow cynical of what is going on behind the closed doors of the training centre.
Now, obviously, some injuries such as leg bones and ligament damage, are extremely hard to prevent. It is the muscular injuries that are of concern to the fans. What are these players made of that they pull a muscle every game? What is being done on the training ground to prevent this?
Then comes the inconsistency. A word that has been the bane of the Chairman”s life, the manager”s life, the players” lives, and the fans” lives. Looking solely at the results of the season so far, it would appear that the disappointing record of last season hasn”t been banished. In fact, it appears to have been binned, scratched, dusted off and put back on the record player; although this time, it is sticking even earlier than when it was last spun.
The inconsistency first set in after the 3-1 victory over Port Vale, a result dubbed the best in months at the football club. The following three results however, included a 0-0 draw at home to Notts County, a 2-1 loss at Gillingham, and a 1-0 loss on a visit to Yeovil Town. But then came a 1-0 win against Fleetwood. Not the best of performances, but a result to put a miserable run of form behind us for good. Blip well and truly over… right?
A 2-2 draw at home to Oldham followed, then came impressive results, including a 4-1 win at Crawley, and a 2-1 win at home to Barnsley. Right, ok, we”ve had our wobble, now we can climb the table and win the league, right? Of course we can”t, because we”re Peterborough United! Obviously we must now lose our next three games. A 1-0 loss away to Crewe, a 3-2 draw away to Coventry (after being 2-0 up at half time) and a 2-1 loss to Scunthorpe United at London Road. Remarkably, and I mean no disrespect to the teams, we have managed to lose to all six of the current bottom six in League One.
I know most teams have bogey teams, and fans can accept that. But what Peterborough United appear to have is a bogey league segment; which is not nearly as acceptable.
But even with all of this taken into account, I do not believe that it is time to panic. After all, there are still 30 games left in the season. This is more than enough time to rectify it, and the season can still be a successful one. I do believe that changes are needed, whether they be in personel, or in ethos, I am not sure. I am however, for the time being, harbouring some of my pre-season optimism. Although, at the moment, the 2014-15 season is turning down a path all too similar to that of last year”s.