Posh's timing all out over sacking of Cooper
Peterborough United introduced a novel variation to the notion of an unexpected transfer deadline day development by sacking their manager.
It certainly broadsided me and I would love to know what Posh fans make of the decision to dismiss Mark Cooper after 79 days in charge at London Road.
A cursory glance around the Peterborough 606 board clearly shows that many supporters feel that sacking the 41-year-old is the right decision.
There is undoubtedly a body of opinion that believes former Kettering boss Cooper is an honest and committed man but one who had found himself out of his depth. They feel that the board made a mistake in appointing him and has acted swiftly after recognising its mistake.
It could be certainly be argued that drastic action was necessary if the Cambridgeshire club are to stand any chance of ending their first season in the Championship with anything other than the misery of a depressing relegation.
Posh are 11 points from safety, having played a game more than fourth-from-bottom Ipswich. They have lost their last four games and scored just once during that period.
Owner Darragh MacAnthony last week labelled the season a "disaster" and hit out at everyone from "top to bottom" at the club, reserving particular ire for the playing staff.
"I am done with defending the players," he said.
Cooper was in charge of Kettering before joining Peterborough
A couple of days later Cooper found himself in the position of having to deny dressing room unrest at the club, with rumours engulfing London Road that former boss Darren Ferguson wanted to sign several of their players.
A war of words between MacAnthony and Ferguson ensued. It was an unseemly and unwanted sideshow.
MacAnthony is right when he says that the campaign is a shambolic mess. What he must accept is his part in creating the current predicament.
Ferguson left the club in early November. The reason behind his departure was unclear but it was obvious his relationship with the chairman had broken down.
Posh had won just two games by that stage but had previously secured back-to-back promotions under Ferguson, whom MacAnthony described in the summer as "the best young manager in the country".
Ferguson had apparently been advised by his father last summer to leave the club, Sir Alex recognising the scale of the task that would face his son in the Championship.
George Boyd has been outstanding this season but it may well be that regardless of the various managerial comings and goings, Posh simply lack the all-round squad to compete successfully in the Championship.
If the nature of Ferguson's departure was unfortunate then the timing of Cooper's exit appears to be little short of ridiculous, coming as it did within five hours of the January transfer window closing.
I thought that the appointment of Cooper from non-league Kettering was a very bold move and one for which MacAnthony should be applauded.
It showed an adventurousness and originality above and beyond opting for one of the same tired old faces that peddle their proven mediocrity from pillar to post.
The Posh owner explained how Cooper had impressed him with the diligence of his preparation for interview, studying in great detail 16 DVDs that he had been given of Peterborough games.
It was enough to persuade MacAnthony to talk of a brave new era in his programme notes ahead of Cooper's first home game, the 2-2 draw with Middlesbrough on 28 November.
Of course, having promoted a manager four divisions with a brief of hauling the club to safety in a notoriously competitive and unforgiving league, it could be argued that the owner ought to perhaps have given the manager longer than two months to prove his worth.
"When Mark took over as manager of Peterborough they were in a relegation battle and in the relegation zone," said League Managers Association chief executive Richard Bevan.
"It is very disappointing for a club to part with a manager after only 13 games in charge when there are still 18 league games to play this season."
What makes the timing of the dismissal all the more bizarre is that the chairman can hardly be accused of failing to back his manager in the January transfer market.
Posh paid Grimsby £500,000 for Ryan Bennett, signed Scott Griffiths on a free and converted Josh Simpson and Exodus Geohaghon's loans into permanent deals.
Geohaghon, incidentally, has a huge throw, the longest I have ever seen, but many fans believe the defender's struggle to adapt to the Championship illustrates Cooper's shortcomings in the transfer market.
Cooper also dipped into the loan market to snap up Kerrea Gilbert (Arsenal), Jake Livermore (Tottenham), Izale McLeod (Charlton) and Reuben Reid (West Brom).
Two players left permanently, another couple were released and a handful departed on loan. In other words, Cooper did a busy and brisk month of wheeling and dealing before receiving his cards.
To sack him now is either an ill-timed and ill-judged decision or the necessary if belated act of a board guilty of a terrible appointment.
There have been 10 managerial vacancies in the Championship so far this season (two at London Road) and even given the over-riding likelihood of relegation there is no doubt that Posh will not find themselves short of applicants.
MacAnthony was successful in his appointment of Ferguson but has obviously reached the conclusion he made a mistake with Cooper.
His next decision will prove crucial if Posh are not going to restore some much-needed stability and credibility.
But there is no doubt that his decision to sack Cooper is the most surprising move of transfer deadline day.