Peterborough co-owner Darragh MacAnthony described him as one of the greatest managers in the history of the football club, but Posh are once again preparing for life after Darren Ferguson.
With only one win in their last 16 Championship matches – a run compounded by an agonising defeat away at relegation rivals Derby on Saturday – the club confirmed they accepted Ferguson’s resignation as he leaves London Road for the third time in 15-years.
A last-gasp winner for Wayne Rooney’s Rams saw Posh drop below Derby in the table, now five points adrift of safety and staring relegation back to the third-tier squarely in the face.
But football supporters have a long memory and Ferguson’s four promotions across three spells with Peterborough make him a club legend in the eyes of many of the United faithful.
“For me, he’s the greatest manager in my lifetime at the club,” Peterborough fan Alex Batt tells FansBet.
“I was kind of surprised by the timing of the announcement, and the fact it was Darren Ferguson’s decision to step away, but overall, I think it’s the right call for all parties.
“It was clear in his recent post-match interviews he was not himself and he was struggling to see an end to the decline.
“He openly admitted that he had tried everything and nothing was working, with basically says he’s out of ideas and he can’t stop the rot.
“It’s a shame that it’s ended like this, again, but Posh fans should still be grateful for what he’s done for the club and the success he has achieved here. The Championship is seemingly just a step too far for his managerial ability.
“I am shocked he made the call, but it seemed like the owners were never going to make the decision, so he took it out of their hands.
“Everyone knows it was the right move, but the owners just didn’t want to pull the trigger. The recent form is poor and the performances are even worse, so I’m not surprised it’s ended in his departure.”
It takes a lot to pursue a career in football management when your father is acclaimed as one of the greatest ever.
But that’s what Darren Ferguson decided to do at the age of only 34 when he called time on an eight-year playing spell with Wrexham and was appointed Peterborough player-boss in January 2007.
Posh were promoted to League One in 2008 and the Championship 12-months later as Ferguson made a flying start to his managerial career, prompting MacAnthony to describe him as “the best young manager in the country.”
But he left by mutual consent in November 2009 with the club bottom of the second tier – somewhere they remained until the end of the campaign.
He was soon appointed Preston North End boss but lasted only 11 months at Deepdale before returning to Peterborough in January 2011 following the sacking of Gary Johnson.
Taking over with the club back in League One, Ferguson led them back to the Championship in the same season, and although they were relegated in 2013, the following year brought about a trip to Wembley as Posh beat Chesterfield 3-1 to lift the EFL Trophy.
The Scot left Peterborough for the second time in February 2015 with the side languishing in mid-table, later taking over at Doncaster Rovers where he achieved yet another promotion – this time to League One – in 2017.
But he quit the south Yorkshire club in the summer of 2018 and Posh came calling once more in January 2019 following the downfall of Steve Evans.
Once again, Ferguson proved to be a perfect fit as he lead them back to the Championship via the automatic promotion places last season.
“The early days in his first spell were truly incredible, and he’s given me so many great memories,” says Alex.
“It’s clear the Championship was just above his ceiling, but during our time in League Two and League One with him, he gave us some of the best players the club has seen and some of the best football the club has seen.
“Posh’s 3-0 win over Huddersfield at Old Trafford in May 2011 in the League One play-off final was one of the best days of my life, let alone the best memory Fergie gave me – a superb day out, a superb result and a cracking celebration afterwards.
“I’d never say never in football, but a fourth spell at the club for Ferguson would be truly ridiculous now – the ship has sailed, 100%, and it simply can’t happen again. For me, someone will have to do very well to eclipse his reputation.”
Ferguson, 50, departs with the club second-from-bottom in the Championship following a 20th league loss of the season in only 31 outings.
At the beginning of February, Ferguson said his team was facing a “make or break” month in their battle to avoid relegation and an immediate return back to League One.
And although they are in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup, with a lucrative tie against Manchester City awaiting, results in the league have remained poor, with Alex believing Ferguson’s replacement will have to work miracles to keep Posh in the Championship.
“I was always confident we’d survive up until the last month or so. We’ve really derailed and showed no character and no fight since, on and off the pitch,” he says.
“The new manager will have to work wonders with these players, who have played a huge role in the underperformance so far.
“Can I see it happening? Not really, but like I said earlier, never say never.”
Ferguson spurned a pay-off to make way for the new man and a quick appointment is expected as Posh travel to face league leaders Fulham on Wednesday, with Neil Warnock, Lee Johnson and Grant McCann all linked to the vacancy.
But whoever gets the job will have a big task on their hands to turn Posh’s fortunes.
After scoring just 23 goals and shipping 61 already – only fellow strugglers Reading having conceded more with 62 – Posh have the worst goal difference in the Championship with -38 and Ferguson’s successor will have 15 games to address that statistic.
“I would accept Grant McCann if that decision was made, but I would just like a new direction and someone with new ideas and a new way of playing,” reveals Alex, who last year named his cat after Ferguson.
— Alex Batt (@AlexBatt) February 20, 2022
“McCann has improved tremendously since he last managed us, and he was harshly sacked by Hull, but it just feels like the easy option and the easy appointment.
“I’d rather a young manager who can build a project, rather than a knee-jerk quick-fix type manager. We must remember, though, although we are a Championship club, we aren’t as big as the other sides in reality. Our pool of options is A LOT smaller than most.”
Asked whether his feline friend will be given a new name following the human Ferguson’s exit, Alex said: “The cat is approaching one, so I think it would be too confusing for him to change name now.
“Fergie remains in my household, even if he doesn’t remain at London Road, so maybe I shouldn’t have got a cat a day after securing promotion – hindsight is a wonderful thing, though.”
Leave a comment
Follow Matthewjcrist on Twitter