Darren Ferguson: Long-term Option, or is a New Face for Next Season Needed?

After two defeats, to the bottom two teams in League One, it might’ve been easy to get caught up in a barrage of negative comments towards Fergie and his failure to catapult the stagnating Steve Evans’ side into a higher position than 6th, falling outside of the playoffs since the Scotsman was axed after a stalemate against Charlton. So, with the club failing to improve under Fergie, and Darragh MacAnthony insisting that the appointment of Fergie was more than nostalgia and is long-term, is this the right option? Or, with the disdain against Fergie’s name of recent weeks, is a new face needed after this season? 

Well, I think two things are a certainty – 1) If Fergie does succeed this season, and pulls Posh out of this recent poor form, seizing the playoffs and wins it – he has to stay, just for clinching a fourth promotion at the club. But, also, 2) If the polar opposite occurs, which isn’t hard to imagine considering Posh’ constant woes since he’s returned, this isn’t damaging to the man himself. He put himself in an almightily difficult position, trying to pick up the pieces after Steve Evans – who is now known to have been sacked for his bullying behaviour, and a divisive figure amongst the group – and so if he fails, at least he tried to bring back the feel good factor after a bad taste in the mouth was left. But still, if this more than likely second scenario does transpire, I can’t see an option that means Fergie remains as a long term manager past this season. 

There are many reasons for why I feel Fergie isn’t the long-term option necessary for the football club, it might be necessary as it’s quite clear Fergie and Darragh have a connection, but I can’t help but feel this is a tried and tested route that may have worked back in the day, but how does this translate into the modern game where the likes of Aaron McLean are now a part of the coaching staff? In football, you have to adapt and be ahead of the curve in order to succeed – you need to be bold, adventurous and exciting, like the original Fergie squad was with non-league gems, an unrivalled energy and a mentality of, if you’re going to score,, we’ll score more than you. That’s why those teams were promoted, initially put in place by Keith Alexander and then Fergie – who was an unproven manager – more than showed himself to be a worthwhile risk.

Far too many times in recent years, MacAnthony has dodged a risky appointment (in terms of being adventurous and unorthodox) in favour of a manager known in the Football League – Graham Westley fits that category, alongside the aforementioned Steve Evans who now feels like a bad nightmare that prolongs into the day. If he isn’t appointing a safe option, he usually recruits within the club already – Dave Robertson, who was frankly hopeless as Posh boss even if he was a nice guy, was given the duties after impressing as caretaker alongside Grant McCann who I now feel Darragh might regret sacking even if his Donny side slipping up gives Posh a chance to still finish 6th, somehow. 

Risky appointments, in recent years, have usually paid dividends – the examples from this season include Daniel Farke at Norwich, who has transformed Norwich City into an attacking juggernaut with excitement and youth interwoven into their DNA, alongside fellow German Daniel Stendel at Barnsley. Stendel’s Barnsley side, in my opinion, have played the best football I’ve seen from an opposition this season – their 4-0 win at London Road in October came amidst a very bright start for Evans’ men, and the 2-0 away defeat Posh suffered on Boxing Day saw Cauley Woodrow score a screamer alongside intricate passing build-up. With a passionate fanbase too, they have a model in place and a clear footballing culture present. Even the recently departed David Wagner at Huddersfield shows that the unorthodox approach is highly effective, writing himself into the history books at Huddersfield when they clinched an unlikely promotion to the Premier League. So, instead of sticking with averageness, Darragh needs to bring in someone fresh, to revitalise a club stuck in a vicious cycle of being so close yet so far every season since relegation at Palace. Fergie should’ve gone after that relegation, and I can’t in this instance see him as the long term fix here. 

What the football club needs is to restore is a culture, a culture is so crucial in these modern times. When the glory days were in full swing, we bought non-league talent, we scored for fun and we had an element of unpredictability about us as an underdog. What do we have now? We have the occasional good performance here or there, but the players look hopeless as to what a game-plan is at times where we then rely on Marcus Maddison as a source of inspiration, whose performances are nothing short of bipolar. If we appoint an exciting manager, give him the tools to succeed and let this new way of thinking fester and grow, I think success can occur – a long-term strategy has to be the way forward.

Norwich struggled last season but stuck by Farke and now look at them. As much as I want to stick with Fergie, his time in Peterborough folklore has already been written. It’s now time for a new fresh face to come in, put across a vision and we have to stick with it – Burnley stuck by Sean Dyche even when they were relegated, as they saw something. If Fergie does get us promoted this season, I’ll eat these words. But, if the opposite realistically materialises, we need to go bold and big instead of letting Steve Evans loose with a multitude of bargain buys! Regardless, nothing can diminish Fergie’s legacy at Posh, and almost for his sake, I hope he leaves – if we don’t go up – so he doesn’t have to take all the disdain thrown at him by idiotic Posh supporters.

By Kelan Sarson – MyPoshSeason