In Peterborough United chairman Darragh MacAnthony’s nine-and-a-half year reign at the club, he will never have faced a tougher period than this.
It had been a fairytale start to life as an owner of a football club, when the Irishman arrived at London Road in 2006, leading the club out of League Two the following season.
It was the first of back-to-back promotions that took the club to the Championship, and their immediate relegation was met with another promotion – back to the second tier of English football, at the first time of asking.
But that, bar their Johnstone’s Paint Trophy win in 2014, is where The Posh’s success ends. Since their cruel last day of the season relegation by Crystal Palace, the club will go into their fourth consecutive season in League One, after aiming for an immediate return to the Championship. However, that dream is long in the past.
MacAnthony axed Graham Westley after seven months in charge on Saturday evening, following a lacklustre 2-0 home defeat to Scunthorpe, with the club 14th in League One, and now must find the right man to replace him.
The 40-year-old held crisis talks with Posh fans on Sunday, after their initial surge in season ticket sales stalled, in a bid to entice fans back to London Road on a regular basis next season. But he will be having to near enough give away tickets to fans, if he makes the wrong decision… again.
MacAnthony has threatened to sell the club if Peterborough don’t return to the Championship in the next 18 months, but first must assess whether to appoint former fans’ favourite and assistant manager Grant McCann on a permanent basis, or move for a more experienced option.
Steve Cotterill, who guided Bristol City back to the Championship last season, is an early contender, alongside former Bolton and Celtic boss Neil Lennon and Leeds United boss Steven Evans.
And while some fans want McCann to take over at the helm, it is not the time for MacAnthony to be taking such risks – as clearly inexperience in the past hasn’t paid off – bar the success of Darren Ferguson.
The last thing the Irishman can afford to do is to make a risky appointment, and, again, have to persuade the club’s fans that they will go again next season. Peterborough have done too much of that of late, without any success. So why should the fans believe in MacAnthony this time around?
After arriving at the club with the likes of George Boyd, Craig Mackail-Smith and Aaron McLean at his disposal, the chairman enjoyed a heroic start to his tenure as owner/ chairman, before appointing the son of Manchester United managerial legend, Sir Alex Ferguson.
However, that magic has since disappeared, and the club’s reputation for unearthing young, talented players has backfired. Instead, no sooner is a player proving his ability at London Road, he is being shipped on for millions of pounds.
Without doubt there will be other fans of smaller clubs in envy of the working model Peterborough have in place. But for as long as the club fail to progress on the pitch, what is millions of pounds in the bank? Certainly when it’s not being invested in some much-needed experience.
The youth policy is fantastic, and boast an academy system that only two other teams – Watford and Colchester United – deploy, in the fact that they work directly with a local school, as part of their academy system.
But having a veteran goalkeeper in Mark Tyler – who is, no doubt, soon to retire – Michael Bostwick and Gabriel Zakuani as your only sources of experience, is only going to make the aim of promotion more difficult.
It should be a 50/50 squad, with younth and experience blended in – which would, arguably, complement each other nicely – in order to get Peterborough to where they want to be.
However, the chairman’s idea of youth is seemingly something different: someone who has played a season’s worth of games in the bottom two leagues, or has won a single promotion – whether it be League One or Two – or some other vague concept of… experience.
It is not to say Peterborough should abandon the great work that they do at their academy, and the success young players at Posh have gone on to have. But old stock, underperforming egos and any other individual who doesn’t want to be a part of what the club wants to achieve, should leave now.
The club need to check stock this summer, appoint the perfect manager – and nothing less – and commit themselves to entertaining the dedicated, loyal fans the club have. And, in that time, the rest will be soon to follow. No doubt about it.
MacAnthony can appoint any manager he likes – in fact, Jose Mourinho could be nabbed from the grasp of Manchester United, if we’re quick – but if we continue to see players out the door so soon, then the quicker our promotion chances go out the door, also.
While some fans may not agree with the chairman’s philosophy, everyone appreciates the remarkable turn around the Irishman has done at the club – keeping Peterborough United in existence – but that doesn’t deny us the right to complain when, so evidently, things are going wrong.
The Chairman needs to stop mentioning how much money he pumps into the club on an annual basis and accept that is part of what being an owner is… funnily enough.
The only people who can brag about what they’re doing at Peterborough at the minute is the away supporters. On endless occasions this season, thousands have followed the club up and down the country – regardless of previous results.
There is no time for the chairman to take risks now, he needs to play safe, put his money where his mouth is – rather than the other way around – and appoint the man who is all-but guaranteed to get us back into the Championship, and let the good times return.