After relegation from the Championship last season, Peterborough are intent on an instant return under Grant McCann.
And their quest for promotion has begun promisingly, with their League One campaign commencing with back-to-back wins over Cheltenham and Morecambe.
The Posh were two goals behind on the opening day and needed the second half introductions of Joe Ward and Jack Marriott to turn things around, while the visiting Shrimps had their chances at London Road.
Nonetheless, McCann’s side have done their job against two sides likely to struggle this season, and now they have to test themselves against two expected to challenge for promotion in Plymouth Argyle and Sheffield Wednesday.
Tim Stoodley from The Yellow Block Podcast, though, is delighted with his side’s perfect record in league and cup.
“Everyone loves a 100% record and the cup win this week against Plymouth only furthers that positive feeling.
“We’re realistic though, no disrespect to either Cheltenham or Morecombe, but with the quality we have we’d be disappointed with any less than the three points against both of them respectively.
“That said, Cheltenham really made us work! First half, they capitalised really well on our poor tactical output. There was some encouragement within that though, gaffer Grant McCann clearly had a Plan B; something that was sorely lacking last campaign!
“Our aim this summer was to keep the core of the squad we had in the Championship and we’ve managed that, so it’s hard not to be confident going into this season.
“In fact, I’m usually incredibly pessimistic, but even I’m getting carried away!
“It’s not self-serving to say we have the best front line in the league, with Clarke-Harris and Marriott, so matched with the experience we now have at this level and a proven manager and the sky really is the limit for this group and the expectations are growing by the game.”
McCann, widely credited for pushing the need for expanding the backroom staff, improving the infrastructure and enhancing the sports science department to boost fitness, has earned Tim’s praise.
“He has provided a fresh approach and renewed enthusiasm.
“He knows the club well, he knows how to work with our hands-on chairman and he knows what the fans expect and he’s switched on enough to realise that the problems last year didn’t occur as a result of a squad not capable of surviving.
“We do have to give credit to Cliff Byrne too; Grant and Cliff seem to work so well together and Cliff brings a mentality coaching that was so badly missing last season.
“It’s great to see how Grant is approaching management this time around and he’s setting us up for long-term success, despite knowing the fans demand short-term returns.
“He has real potential to make a name for himself here and I believe he’ll do just that.”
Another figure hoping to make a name for himself in PE2 is Ronnie Edwards, who won the European Under-19s Championships with England in the summer.
“There’s been a lot of talk this summer about Edwards, and rightly so! He will, without doubt, make the national team and is set for the very top.
“The figures quoted by our chairman, in terms of transfer fees and asking prices, are not unrealistic. However, he does need to improve defensively.
“His decision-making, dribbling and calmness are well above his age group and he has so much potential.
“Credit has to be given to Barnet and the Posh youth setup for polishing him into the gem he’s becoming and he may well fund our new stadium when he leaves! No pressure, Ronnie!”
The other exciting talent who thrived in the Championship last season is Harrison Burrows, who scored three goals and registered eight assists, despite at times playing at left wing-back or even left-back as opposed to the more advanced role he first came through the academy in.
Tim is full of praise for Burrows, who he describes as “a top local lad who has a fantastic work rate and a crossing ability that is top-drawer”.
“He’s struggling to find one consistent position, which isn’t always his doing – his versatility is often abused by the managers – but as with Ronnie, he has a lot of potential to rise up the leagues if he keeps developing at a steady rate.”
Quite apart from individuals, though, Tim has lots of belief in the overall depth of Peterborough’s squad.
“For once with Posh, there is quality right throughout the group and if I were an opposition manager, I’d struggle to work out how to break us down.
“The aforementioned Marriot and Clarke-Harris partnership has the potential to be record-breaking, the quality of young Edwards could be key, but actually, it’s more of the holding midfield that will be crucial this campaign, I believe.
“Jack Taylor is a stalwart in that position and coupled with the cool-head of Jeando Fuchs really provides a solid base to build on.
“Even more encouraging is new signing Ben Thompson who has already made his mark and pushed Fuchs out of the team, giving McCann the dream situation of healthy competition in key positions.
“Joe Ward is another player to watch – proven at this level, top-class crossing and even a tidy finish when needed… he’s a great asset to this team and will be key for us.”
The Posh podcaster acknowledges how difficult it will be to secure an instant return, however, in such a competitive division.
“It was really exciting in League One last season! Even more so because Wyc*mbe didn’t go up, and I expect this campaign to be just as tight.
“Realistically one of about 12 teams could put on a title challenge, but there’s no doubt Posh will be up there.
“The upcoming tests against Wednesday, Lincoln and Derby will be a great benchmark for us, but with this squad, we have to be aiming for the very top.
“Play-offs wouldn’t be a failure but if there’s ever a time for us to expect the top two as a fanbase, it’s probably now, and that is really down to Darragh and the owners for keeping this group together through the summer.”
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