2020/21 Preview – Peterborough United

With the new league season just days away, host of Express FM’s Football Hour and Pompey Live pundit Jake Smith takes a look at Peterborough United as part of his club-by-club preview.

Intro: The club are nicknamed ‘The Posh’, which was inherited earlier, unconnected professional clubs within the city. Despite the current club not being founded until 1934, the name first came about over a decade earlier, reportedly originating from Pat Tirrel, then player-manager of Fletton United, who announced in the pre-season of 1921 that he was seeking “Posh players for a posh team”.

Fletton United re-formed in 1923 as Peterborough and Fletton United though folded just nine years later, with Peterborough United starting up two years after, carrying over the supporter base and nickname of the previous football club.

In March 2018, Peterborough United owner Darragh MacAnthony sold half of his stake to Canada-based investors Dr Jason Neale and Stewart Thompson.

Darragh is not afraid to speak his mind on social media, revealing sometimes a little more than he perhaps should… though his honest and down-to-Earth personality has won fans over, not to mention his ambitions of reaching the top-flight of English football.

Club honours include the Football League 4th-tier (now League Two) title in 1961 and 1974, runners-up of the same division in both 1991 and 2008, runners-up of League One in 2009 and three separate Play-Off winning campaigns – once in the 4th-tier in 2000 and twice in the 3rd-tier in 1992 and 2011. Peterborough United also won the Football League Trophy back in 2014.

Home Ground: London Road (Also known as the Weston Homes Stadium for sponsorship purposes), Peterborough (Cambridgeshire), 157 miles (by car) from Fratton Park – Capacity: 15,314

2019/20 Table Position: 7th (League One) – 59 points after 35 games with an average of 1.69 points per-game.

Overall Head-To-Head Record: Peterborough United Wins: 9 – Draws: 9 – Portsmouth Wins: 11

Previous Meeting With Pompey: Peterborough United 2-0 Portsmouth, 7th March 2020, League One

2020/21 Fixture Dates:

Saturday 5th December, 2020 – Fratton Park

Saturday 13th of March, 2021 – London Road

Manager: Darren Ferguson, son of esteemed manager Sir Alex Ferguson, is currently in charge of first-team matters at London Road.

The 48-year-old is currently serving in his third term at Peterborough United, having previously managed the Posh between 2007 & 2009 and 2011 & 2015. In total, Ferguson has taken charge of 430 competitive Peterborough United matches, amassing a win percentage of 44.2%.

Between his three spells in charge of the Posh, Ferguson managed both Preston North End (2010) and Doncaster Rovers (2015 – 2018), returning to Cambridgeshire more recently last January, succeeding the dismissed Steve Evans, who is now at Gillingham.

As a player, Ferguson played as a midfielder and pulled on the shirts of Manchester United, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Sparta Rotterdam, Wrexham and finally, Peterborough United themselves.

One-time Premier League champion as a player with Manchester United in 1993, Ferguson has achieved a fair amount so far during his managerial career. With Peterborough, he has won the EFL Trophy (2014), the League One Play-Offs (2011) and has secured two automatic promotion finishes (League Two – 2008 & League One – 2009) via 2nd-place.

One To Watch: 22-year-old midfielder Jack Taylor is one to watch at Peterborough this season.

Taylor will be donning the No. 8 shirt for the club, with whom he signed for in January from National League outfit Barnet, with the initial fee paid approximately £500,000.

With a figure standing at 6’ 1”, the Hammersmith-born prospect came through the youth ranks at Chelsea, remaining at Stamford Bridge for seven years before making the switch to Barnet in 2012. Taylor earned his first senior contract four years later, going on to become a centurion for the Bees before leaving for the Posh earlier this year. In 2016, whilst contracted still with Barnet, he was loaned out to Hampton & Richmond Borough to help with the side’s run-in to the season, playing alongside former Portsmouth players Jamal Lowe and Nicke Kabamba.

As a result of his father coming from County Galway in Ireland, as well as himself holding Irish citizenship since birth, Taylor is eligible to represent the Republic of Ireland on the international stage. In 2019, he was called up to his nation’s Under-21 squad for the 2019 Toulon Tournament, which was held in France in the June of that year. His call-up proved successful, scoring a brace in a training match against the senior team and making his debut, albeit as a substitute, against Bahrain Under-23s.

Signing of the Summer (So Far): Rumoured Pompey target Sammie Szmodics will undoubtedly go down as the Posh’s best summer signing, regardless of how the remainder of the window plays out.

The attacking-midfielder, who has been dubbed one of the best in his position across League One, will be wearing the No. 15 shirt again this season. Szmodics spent the second-half of last season at London Road on-loan from Championship side Bristol City, making 10 appearances and scoring 4 goals and recording 4 assists.

The 24-year-old’s impressive spell at Peterborough secured interest from multiple League One promotion chasing and Championship clubs this summer, with all of Portsmouth, Sunderland and Barnsley reportedly keen to secure his signature.

Szmodics was born in Colchester and came through the youth ranks as a local lad before penning his first pro deal in 2013, 11 years after joining the club as a 7-year-old. Between 2013 and his departure in 2019, the playmaker made 142 appearances across league and cup tournaments, netting 35 times – he was the club’s leading goalscorer for two seasons running between 2017 and 2019, which attracted the attention of Bristol City last summer.

His career in the Championship failed to take off, however, Szmodics made just four appearances in five months at Ashton Gate before being shipped out on-loan to the Posh. Darren Ferguson put the money made from the sale of Ivan Toney to Brentford, which is believed to be around £7million rising to £10million in add-ons and bonuses, to good use by bringing Szmodics back to London Road earlier this week.

The reported fee paid by Peterborough United to lure Bristol City into selling the player stands at around £1million, though officially announced as “undisclosed” by both parties.

Season Expectation: Last season saw Peterborough finish in 7th, however that final position only decided as part of the unweighted points-per-game system, which was put in place following the suspension of football due to COVID-19.

Before the campaign was curtailed, the Posh had won 7 of their last 9 matches in League One and were on course to finish strong, having dipped out of the top six after a lapse in form around the New Year period. At one stage toward the start of the season, the side looked promising to compete for automatic promotion.

In 2020/21, Darren Ferguson will be expectant to keep Peterborough as high as possible, maintaining consistent form throughout the campaign to avoid dropping out of the Play-Offs at any stage. Quite frankly, he has the squad capable of at least reaching the Play-Off lottery.

Finishing in 3rd or 4th would, in my opinion, be considered as a respectable and successful season for Peterborough, with the automatics an added bonus – I wouldn’t put it past them to finally achieve promotion to the second-tier after an 8-year absence!

My Predicted Finish: 2nd (P)

Ivan the Irreplaceable – A Posh Perspective

Aspiring sports journalist and Peterborough United supporter Alex Batt, who works for ‘GiveMeSport’, provides insight on the Posh and how he expects the new league campaign to unfold at London Road.

The target in 2020/21 for Peterborough is simple, claims the 28-year-old: “It’s got to be promotion, whether it’s automatics or Play-Offs, we simply have to go up. We would have gone up, in my opinion, had the season finished last term, so hopefully the boys are more motivated than ever to get the job done this time.

“Without sounding too bitter, the whole season needs to be played out fairly. We’d have got promoted had the EFL decided to carry on the league. It’s hard to say what needs to change when that’s how it all ended. We do need to stop conceding late goals, though, that would have helped massively.” – Alex resumed, underlining the flaws in Peterborough’s game last season.

At the time of speaking to Alex, the Posh had not yet announced the re-signing of 24-year-old attacking-midfielder Sammie Szmodics, who impressed during his short loan spell from Bristol City at the end of last season. When discussing the club’s transfer business to date, the supporter highlighted both Ryan Broom (Welsh midfielder signed for an undisclosed fee from Cheltenham Town) and Jonson Clarke-Harris (26-year-old striker signed on a four-year deal from League One rivals Bristol Rovers) as Karl Robinson’s more impressive signings.

“I’ll go with the striker, Clarke-Harris, just because he scored a good amount of goals for a poorer Bristol Rovers side. I’m interested to see what he can do in a team that creates a lot.” – Alex went on to say.

The new forward, who scored 24 goals in 42 competitive appearances for Bristol Rovers between January 2019 and March 2020, is expected to try and contribute in filling the void left by the departing Ivan Toney, who joined Championship side Brentford earlier in the window on a multi-million-pound deal: “Ivan is a massive loss but was always going to happen.” – Alex reflected.

“He’s the best striker I’ve seen at London Road and that says a lot given our history of strikers. Can we replace him solely by one person? Clarke-Harris… no, I don’t think so. It’s now down to him, Mo Eisa AND Siriki Dembele to all chip in with goals, as well as Broom from midfield.”

The ‘GiveMeSport’ writer continued by revealing who he believes could be a player to keep an eye on this season: “He may not go under the radar per-say, but Jack Taylor has been my tip for Posh’s Player of the Season. I think he’s a very strong, imposing and commanding central-midfielder, who showed signs of what he can do last year.

“I think he’ll be even better this year and will be a key man in this Peterborough starting eleven.”

Alex is quietly confident heading into the league campaign, remaining grounded and not getting too ahead of himself with his prediction on where the Posh will finish in the standings: “I’d maybe go around the 4th/5th mark. I believe League One is a very strong league with some top, top teams, but we are now one of them. Automatic promotion may just be out of our reach, but I think we’ll be there or thereabouts.”

“I think Fergie is still hit and miss with a lot of Posh fans to be honest.” – Alex disclosed, before going on to explain the style of play the manager prefers to impose: “The style of play is attacking and good, tidy passing… which is what Peterborough are known for. Does it work? More often than not, yeah!

“One thing I will say about him though is that he’s not afraid to change things early doors if it’s not working. He will make substitutes early on if he has to and will change tactics/formation too.” – he added.

Alex then proceeded to discuss his views on the implementation of the wage cap in Leagues One and Two, claiming his club has been impacted negatively as a result of it coming in: “We are 100% only selling George Boyd and Louis Reed because of said salary cap. Boyd will be a big earner and won’t be a regular first-team player, so it’s a shame but it does make sense. Luckily, we are quite strong financially, so it’s not a total mess for us like it could be for some.

“Darragh MacAnthony has always said he is aiming for the Premier League, which I guess you have to, but the vision right now is to just get back to the Championship in the first place. He has his two new Canadian members on the board with him and a new stadium is on the way, so it seems all positive for Posh right now.

“We just need to crack the League One code and escape it before we end up being a club that never returns.” – Alex concluded.

You can follow Alex on Twitter – @AlexBatt

Photo – Joe Pepler

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