In relation to the recent trends’ of 2009 vs 2019 surfacing on social media, with a cringe-worthy picture from the past next to your present self, will looking back at Posh squads of old hold the same cringe-inducing quality? Or does the Posh squad of 2009 rival that of the present day?
When looking at the goalkeeper situation, alongside the defenders, it could be easy to say that 2009’s trumps the defence and keeper of present day – Posh’ frailties at the back a main component for the recent slump in form. However, that would only be the case if you looked at 2009’s defenders and goalkeepers with a rose-tinted nostalgia. For all the Ryan Bennett’s and Joe Lewis’ of the world, you had big, unreliable lumps like Exodus Geohaghon somehow playing in Posh’ maiden season in the Championship. Exodus was one in a catalogue of bizarre signings under the reign of Mark Cooper – no surprise that his career after Posh was playing a bit part in non-league sides up and down the country, from Solihull Moors to retirement at Halesowen Town. To his credit, his agent must’ve been heavily persuasive – pawning the hopeless, lanky defender like an item on auction.
Even the defenders who did impress – such as Mark Little and Gabriel Zakuani – weren’t at their peak for Posh just yet. Although Little is remembered for being an attacking force, Mark was never the most capable defender – and in a side that finished bottom of the pile in 2009/10 – the defence is never going to pass by with flying colours. Little would grow into a much better player in the following years, remembered for his contentious penalty away at MK in Posh’ playoff success the season after Posh’ exit from the Championship.
Even Joe Lewis, who is remembered by many Posh fans as a goalkeeping great, was often poor for Posh – I always remember him, regardless of the onrushing attacker, sticking to his goal line like glue. Put Joe Lewis into Posh’ squad now, and we’d probably thank our lucky stars that we had two goalkeeping talents in Chapman and O’Malley at our disposal. Therefore, when reflecting back, the defence of yesteryear did have some obvious talent – Ryan Bennett was sold for big bucks off the back of impressing during this time period. But, the nightmarish past of Exodus and co makes 2009’ defence a gruelling ordeal to revisit.
Looking at the midfield from 2009, it really is another case of a mixed bag – the obvious highlights being George Boyd and Tommy Rowe alongside Mr Consistent in the form of Chris Whelpdale. Even Charlie Lee, who still in 2019, stands up as a cult figure amongst Posh fans was admired during this time period for his no-nonsense attitude alongside his general ability and commitment on the ball. But, when you look at the squad today, many of the players who dazzled a decade prior are behind 2019’s offerings. As much as Tommy Rowe and Whelpdale were consistent, Joe Ward is basically the new morphed version of Whelpdale. But, unlike Chris, Joe also has a keener eye for goal than his predecessor.
However, in regard to 2009’s midfield, 2019’s could do with the brute force of Charlie Lee commanding the centre when Alex Woodyard and others go missing, avoiding marking duties. Likewise, although Marcus Maddison has certainly caught the eye in his 200 or so Posh appearances, he is still some way off ever eclipsing George Boyd’s spell (even conning the nickname ‘The Stevenage Pele’ in the process). Therefore, when revisiting, 2009’s midfield is arguably on par with that of 2019’s – the central midfield options were more expansive with players such as Frecklington also on the agenda. But, Posh’s midfield now gives the team of 2019 a more attacking edge, even if the centre of the park isn’t as combative as 2009’s once was. Thankfully, a decade on, we can forget the likes of Sergio Torres in the flash of a pan!
Last but not least, the reason why Posh were such a captivating team to watch in the late noughties was their dynamic and unpredictable attack – 2009 still had the Holy Trinity in full flow. Although 2009 was an off season for the trio – George Boyd out-scoring both Mackail-Smith and McLean with 12 in all competitions – those 3 will always be remembered as the pinnacle of attacking talent at Posh. But, away from the obvious talent up top and the free-scoring nature of Posh, 2009’s team attacking wise had some misfits lurking behind the grandeur of Mackail-Smith and company.
Take for example, some of the loanees that came in for Posh at this time period – Reuben Reid and Izale McLeod, whose Football League careers read like a roadmap of the U.K., stopped off at Posh on their whirlwind tour to limited effect. McLeod played a mere 4 games for Posh, goalless in these appearances. His partner in crime, who has forged success recently with Forest Green Rovers, was also goalless at London Road – Reid making 9 more appearances than his counterpart. Whereas, if Ivan Toney misfires, at least 2019’s squad has attackers you can somewhat rely on – Matt Godden, although he has been off the boil in recent months, is capable based on his early season form alone.
Likewise, in spite of Cummings’ loan deal wavering off with Jason all but confirmed to have left, at least he would provide more talent than ex-Charlton striker McLeod. But then, ex Posh strikers like Luke James and Emile Sinclair could’ve done a better job than both of 2009’s miscalculated loanees. Even so, just for the memories alone, 2009’s strikers just about win – but with Toney’s recent form, the one-man machine could write some more memories in 2019 for Posh. Also, youngsters such as Mathew Stevens prove the conveyer belt of successful Posh strikers isn’t going to close soon.
Therefore, with Posh’ 2009 squad under the microscope, some players did garner the reaction one would give if they looked at an old reminder of what they looked like a decade ago – Geohaghon’s name alone could send chills down your spine, and sleepless nights could be had if Shaun Batt came into discussion (how was he a professional footballer?).
Anyway, 2009’s squad had an issue of being overly bloated for bloated’s sake with less than talented players. But, when a gem was unsurfaced, their talent shone bright – George Boyd forging a successful career from these days at London Road. 2019’s squad doesn’t have the issue of being bloated, Steve Evans’ exodus (no, not that one) of the team in 2018 put an end to that (by bloating the squad with talent, rather than garbage), therefore, although nostalgia might render 2009’s squad as better, 2019’s team is more threadbare in parts – and when there is competition for places – this is due to talent and not down to buying unnecessary players. *cough, Mark Cooper, cough*