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They say you should never go back in football. But Darren Ferguson certainly doesn’t agree. In a bizarre turn of events, Fergie Jr. has returned to London Road just 14 months after leaving by mutual consent.
Life’s rarely dull at Peterborough. Just two seasons ago, successive promotions under Ferguson from League Two to the Championship looked to have set up the fairytale story Peterborough fans had dreamed of, but a sour ending brought the club crashing back to reality.
Posh finished bottom of the Championship after a woeful season which included just eight league victories and a mammoth 80 goals shipped along the way. Ferguson departed after just two months of the campaign.
Life was no better without him at London Road it appeared, as Mark Cooper, Jim Gannon and Gary Johnson all arrived at the helm in attempts to stop the rot. They couldn’t. The latter eventually stayed with the club until his departure on Monday after ‘not seeing eye-to-eye’ with chairman Darragh MacAnthony.
Ferguson himself took charge of Preston North End in January last year, guiding the Lilywhites to 17th in his first season and subsequently being handed the summer to work on the squad. But life on the pitch proved dismal for the Lancashire outfit, who sacked the Scot in December. For the second time in just over a year, Ferguson departed a club sitting rock bottom of the Championship.
But Posh chairman MacAnthony has not been put off by another second tier horror show.
"It was actually great meeting each other again, when he came to the house and he walked in the door we had a bit of a hug,” he said, presumably to the accompaniment of a Kleenex or two. “It was a tender moment, a bit of a tear jerker.
"We had a real warts and all meeting, talking about everything about each other that maybe irritated each other at one stage, any problems we may have had and they were never massive problems."
But have the pair learned from their mistakes? Both have admitted there had been an air of naivety during the ill-fated Championship campaign, and concede that several errors were made along the way.
And what better way to say ‘welcome back!’ with a brand-spanking four-and-a-half year contract? It’s a gamble MacAnthony appears more than happy to make.
BFFs MacAnthony and Ferguson share a tender moment...
On the surface it seems a start on the road to stability, but quite whether it is enough for Peterborough supporters is another thing. Ferguson’s return signals the club’s fourth 'permanent' managerial appointment in just 14 months, and has been met with a mixed reception from the Posh faithful.
Naturally there is always a reserved atmosphere of caution when any manager returns for a second spell in charge, not least when the first ended in disaster. MacAnthony himself cited the distractions of interest from other Championship clubs which stretched his relationship with Ferguson, but is adamant the two have patched up any differences to take Peterborough forward.
But wherever Peterborough fans stand on the matter, few can argue that Ferguson oversaw some of the best football witnessed at London Road during their successful League One promotion season.
A different manager may arrive asking for reserved judgement until he brings in his own players, but Ferguson cannot fall back on this. Of course the managers that preceded him drafted in faces of their own, but essentially, this is still Ferguson’s squad. Players such as Craig Mackail-Smith, George Boyd and Gabriel Zakuani were all previously key players under Ferguson, and all still important first team fixtures.
But one player Ferguson may have to persuade to remain at London Road is goalkeeper Joe Lewis, who yesterday handed in a transfer request. Posh have already lost Aaron MacLean to Hull City this month, and Ferguson will be determined to keep hold of the young stopper, who has been in useful form between the sticks this campaign. But with a Premier League bid having already been rejected, Peterborough have a struggle on their hands.
Posh already have major issues at the back. The 43 goals conceded already this campaign is surpassed only by relegation-threatened Walsall, and Ferguson’s first job must surely be shoring up a backline with shows no signs of easing their generosity.
Supporters of the club know Ferguson has work to do; not only with the team, but with them. Bridges were burned, trust was tested and ultimately, results turned sour towards the end of his tenure. But nevertheless, Ferguson played a huge part in making his previous spell one of the most exciting since the flourishing Chris Turner era in the early 90s.
Ferguson’s relationship with MacAnthony is not like most other manager-chairman connections. The pair joked at their press conference about their ‘trial-separation’ and insisted they were back on-track together.
Peterborough supporters will certainly hope so – after all, there is a promotion bid to be continued. Sitting fifth in the League One table just past the halfway stage puts Posh in a handy position for another shot of the Championship, and Ferguson will be determined to show he is the man to do it.
Quite whether mistakes will be rectified this time around remains the biggest question for Peterborough fans, but there is no doubt that a renewed sense of optimism has swamped London Road for the return of their former hero.
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