Gary Johnson has left Peterborough United by mutual consent.
Surprising or not?
For those outside of Peterborough it may seem so. However, each of Darragh MacAnthony’s sackings have been justified and this Gary Johnson one also is not without reason.
So why exactly does it seem that the manager who Darragh MacAnthony publically backed in a Q+A on London Road.net – “We of course cannot continue to be beaten so badly by our title rivals and our manager understand this as well but you will not be getting a knee jerk reaction from me this season. I said at start that we have to give our manager time to get things right and I still feel he will. We are 4 unbeaten now and I feel ready for a nice run of wins.” – has left the club? Officially the decision was made by mutual consent. The club and Johnson could not see eye to eye on transfer policy. That was all the official statement outlined. Brief and to the point. Let’s focus on the reasons that Gary Johnson’s departure is a good thing for Peterborough United football club rather than the way the sacking was conducted.
The reason for Johnson’s sacking was this, officially. It is the natural place to start. Since Johnson’s arrival Peterborough United have spent more than ever before in the hope of gaining promotion to the Championship. Previously the club was commended for its forward-thinking in signing “young and hungry players” and giving them a chance. They were thrown straight into the first team. It was a case of “if you’re good enough, you’re old enough”. It worked. Two back-to-back promotions led Peterborough United to the Championship and the club felt like it was going somewhere. Sadly, the 2009-2010 season was an awful one in Peterborough United history. Peterborough United slumped to relegation, finishing bottom of the Championship.
It seemed the policy had ended when players like Grant McCann, Arron Davies and James Wesolowski joined in the summer. All were well reputed players with good track records. They didn’t come cheap either. Peterborough United, as a result of all the summer spending – Boyd signed on a large contract and 10 players were brought in over the summer – the club were now spending 50% more in wages than they were when the club reached the Championship. It didn’t make any real business sense. Yet, such was Darragh MacAnthony’s insistence on getting the club back into the Championship he backed the manager. This was Gary Johnson’s idea – it is clear that Darragh MacAnthony wanted to stick to the policy that had got the club into this position from anybody that has paid any interest in Peterborough United this season.
Initially things were good but all of a sudden it went down-hill for Peterborough United as they slumped down from the top of the league into a mid-table spot following some poor performances. Player’s attitudes were questioned – Grant McCann, one of the top earners, was heavily critisised by some Peterborough United fans. In-fact the only summer signing that was impressing over the time was Lee Tomlin. A player brought in from Rushden and thrown into the first team. Sound familiar? This was Darragh MacAnthony’s idea. A blast from the past and it seemed as much justification as Darragh MacAnthony needed. Perhaps this answer – Darragh MacAnthony was asked about his opinion on recent signings -, again from a recent Q+A, hinted at something:
“Mixed to be fair with some great acquisitions and some really poor ones as well which have since left the club. We moved away from policy I had in place out of panic and worrying about others opinions. We also brought in far too many loan players who were crap and cost us money we shouldn’t have spent. This isn’t going to happen again and my original Policy is firmly in place and nobody is going to sway me on it or change it. If people don’t like it, that’s their problem! I will do what I feel is right for our club in the long term.”
The fact that Darragh MacAnthony alludes to loan signings in his answer is interesting. Gary Johnson stated that he didn’t like to use the loan market in his initial statement after joining the club. Although it seems, that he has used it far too regularly and to very little effect. After McLean’s departure he was replaced by two loan signings (Kieran Agard and Jonathan Obika) – taking the total to 6 loan signings for the season – and it meant that Darragh MacAnthony’s opinion on this had again been undermined. Of the loan signings only two have had a positive impact so far; Adam Clayton, from Leeds, has been a calming influence in central midfield and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, from Wolves, seems to be a decent impact sub. The signings of Lewin Nyatanga and Marcus Williams were disastrous though. Signed to plug a defence that leaks goals, they did the opposite and cost the club what Darragh MacAnthony called “Championship wages”.
Although not outlined in the club’s statement this must have been a worry for those in the higher echelons of the club. Time after time Peterborough United’s defensive weaknesses have been exposed this season and perhaps the six goals the club conceded against Fulham this weekend was the final straw for Darragh MacAnthony. After-all the current defence has cost over a £1,000,000 in transfer fees and therefore should be perfectly able to compete at this level. Yet, the only defender that can claim to have can claim to have performed to any sort of creditable standard this season is Gabriel Zakuani, a player who was initially out of favour with Johnson.
Peterborough United have suffered heavy defeats to promotion rivals this season on a regular basis. Charlton (5-1), Brighton (3-0), Bournemouth (5-1) and Southampton (4-1) have been notable beneficiaries of Posh’s defensive woes. In-fact in 29 games Peterborough United have only managed 3 clean-sheets. Hardly good enough for a team chasing promotion, especially when many of the goals conceded have been fairly basic ones to stop.
The Return of Fergie?
Well, it may just be possible. Have a look at his from Darragh MacAnthony when asked whether he would have Ferguson back at Peterborough United: “Yes, as we had a lot of good times and I am the forgiving kind and don’t hold grudges”. It seems as if there is a certain section of fan support for Ferguson to return too. Already a Facebook group has been set-up in favour of a return for Ferguson.
Personally, I’d love to see him back. He provided the two best seasons that the club have had in recent history, perhaps ever and even though he has faltered in the Championship it doesn’t meant that he is unable to manage at that level. He has made mistakes but he has learnt from them and at this level he excelled. There once was a time when he was known as “the brightest young manager in English football” and heralded at Peterborough United.
However, if there is to be a return of Ferguson it will signal a new era. They say never go back but perhaps it could be the best thing that ever happened if Ferguson does come back to where it all began. Whoever it is they are going to have a mighty hard job on their hands, they are going to have to agree with Darragh MacAnthony, the Chairman’s policy, and this appointment may just be the most important in Peterborough United history.