Thursday, September 27, 2012
The problems at Posh
Trebles form a huge part of Ferguson footballing folklore. Most famously, there was the 1999 hat-trick of FA Cup, Premier League and Champions League. There was also a trio of titles from 1999-2001 and again from 2007-2009, a unique double, not to mention three successive Scottish Cup wins for Aberdeen. They illustrate that Sir Alex Ferguson is a serial winner.
The same cannot be said for his son at the moment. Darren Ferguson has the only 100% record in England's top five divisions. Sadly for him, his Peterborough side have the wrong sort of consistency: they have played seven games and lost all seven. They are officially pointless, putting the younger Ferguson in pole position for a third relegation from the Championship. Peterborough went down in 2009-10, a campaign they started under Ferguson, a feat Preston repeated 12 months later.
Admittedly, Ferguson did not survive either season: he quit Posh after 16 games three years ago, thought to be on his father's advice to prevent the stigma of a probable demotion sticking, and was sacked at Deepdale. It has been suggested history will repeat itself again and Ferguson will make another early exit. He has insisted he won't resign, however, and owner Darragh McAnthony has said he will not dismiss the Scot.
Nevertheless, there is a familiarity to his troubles. The indications are that Ferguson has not learned the lessons of his past. His managerial career suggests that he is a skilled attacking coach but his teams are disastrous defensively. He can unearth a bargain, particularly a midfielder or forward, in the lower leagues, but is reluctant to sign experienced players who have proven their worth in the Championship. He excels in League One but generally flounders at a higher level.
In one respect, that is simply because his is an uphill task. Peterborough are the Championship's smallest club; even with McAnthony's considerable backing, they cannot compete financially with many of their peers, while a footballer given a choice between employers with a recent past in the Premier League and ones more accustomed to life in League Two is always likelier to plump for the former.
Yet that does not account for a continued inability to defend. No team has conceded more Championship goals than Peterborough this season; over two spells, their defence has been breached 121 times in 69 second-tier games under Ferguson. He compounded his problems in 2010 by taking centre-back Craig Morgan from Peterborough to Preston and promptly conceded 42 goals in 22 league matches before his sacking (Morgan, by the way, is now at Rotherham in League Two - perhaps his actual level).
Only Ryan Bennett, signed from Grimsby and sold to Norwich for a six-figure profit, is evidence of his eye for a defender. In contrast, Craig Mackail-Smith, Paul Taylor, Tyrone Barnett and Emile Sinclair are all proof of his ability to unearth a striking bargain. He may be a fine scout of gifted forwards at lesser levels, but Ferguson junior only looks up the footballing pyramid for players to one club: Manchester United.
And it is here that the advantages of being Darren Ferguson vastly outweigh the disadvantages. Comparisons with his legendary father are inevitable and the 40-year-old has long grown accustomed to being questioned about his illustrious parent. He deals with it admirably. But he also gains, with United having a habit of visiting Peterborough for money-spinning friendlies and a regular traffic of players from Ferguson senior to Ferguson junior.
Scott Wootton and Ryan Tunnicliffe were borrowed by Peterborough last season, just as Ritchie De Laet, Matty James and Joshua King were at Preston the previous year, only for Sir Alex to recall them - shamefully, Stoke's Tony Pulis followed suit with his loan players - after Darren's sacking. Thus far, there is little to indicate any of the United quintet benefited particularly from Ferguson junior's tutelage.
But it does not stop others wondering if a managerial alchemy can be passed down the generations. Nottingham Forest made an approach for Ferguson in the summer during their search for what they called an "iconic" manager - they finally found the very un-iconic Sean O'Driscoll and appear all the better for it - while he was mooted as Phil Brown's successor when Hull were in the Premier League.
Ferguson will go to the KC Stadium as a visitor on Saturday, seeking to avoid a club record-equalling eighth successive defeat against a side managed by his former team-mate Steve Bruce. There was a time when the former United captain figured in discussions about Ferguson senior's successor. Those days have long passed but the affable Bruce has carved out a respectable career in management in the top two divisions. Darren Ferguson, in comparison, seems better suited to the lower two leagues.
Because finding a club in a worse plight than Peterborough requires a look at the foot of the Evo-Stik Southern Premier League. Kettering have fewer points - minus five - but even that is attributable to a ten-point deduction for going into administration and even they may overtake Posh's tally soon. While Manchester United prepare to preserve Sir Alex Ferguson's image at Old Trafford in perpetuity by commissioning a statue of him, Peterborough United may have to consider how long Darren Ferguson can last at London Road.