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Ferguson Jr relishes play-off return to Old Trafford

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Paul Fletcher | 01:04 UK time, Friday, 20 May 2011

London Road

Not in his wildest dreams would Darren Ferguson have gone into the current season thinking that it would end in promotion, but he now finds himself 90 minutes away from achieving just that.

The twist in the tale is that the 39-year-old was the manager of Championship side Preston North End when the campaign kicked off, but since mid-January he has been back at League One Peterborough for his second spell in charge.

His Posh side defeated MK Dons 2-0 at a vibrant London Road on Thursday to win their semi-final tie 4-3 on aggregate. The victory secured their place in the League One play-off final at Old Trafford, a venue synonymous with the family name and where he himself started his career as a player, for a clash with Huddersfield.

Win that game and one of football's more ironic twists will see the Scot moving in the opposite direction to North End, who sacked Ferguson at the turn of the year but nonetheless ended the season relegated after a decade of second-tier football.

North End felt they had no choice but to dismiss Ferguson after less than 12 months at the helm, and some fans of the Lancashire club reckon their team would have avoided the drop if the board had not waited until their side hit rock bottom before changing manager.

Peterborough boss Darren Ferguson

Darren Ferguson makes his point from the touchline at London Road - photo: PA

Ferguson won just 13 of 49 games in charge and towards the end of his time at Deepdale had started to look like a man who had run out of answers.

But it seems that his failure at Preston has been very much to Peterborough's advantage, with Posh now on the cusp of securing their third promotion in four seasons.

"It has been a funny old season," said Ferguson. "The experience at Preston was obviously not great but I will use it to my advantage and it is good to be back at a really good club and winning games again."

Peterborough finished fourth in the League One table and provided plenty of entertainment for their supporters. They have scored four or more goals seven times since Ferguson returned to the club. In total they scored 106 goals in the league, 69 in their 23 home league fixtures, and are unbeaten at London Road since November.

To watch Peterborough is to see a team with a huge desire to attack. They pour forward at every opportunity, with the extremely impressive Craig Mackail-Smith the focal point. The former Dagenham & Redbridge striker was on target again on Thursday, slotting home his team's second goal after his initial effort had been blocked.

Mackail-Smith, who is expected to leave for a substantial fee in the summer, scored 27 goals in the regular season and found the net in both legs of the semi-final tie. He chases down every lost cause, has plenty of pace and is a constant menace to the opposition. On Thursday he was superb and should probably have scored more than once.

But team-mate George Boyd reckons that it is in defence that Ferguson has made the biggest difference since his return.

"The gaffer came in and instilled some confidence and self-belief that I do not think we had just before his arrival," said Boyd.

"He changed the shape to a diamond formation in midfield which I think has helped to give our back four some protection but it has not stopped us going forward and attacking. We are still scoring but keeping it tighter at the back."

Peterborough have had nine clean sheets in League One since Ferguson's second coming and restricted the opposition to one goal in a further six matches. The manager must take huge credit for Thursday's performance after learning from the 3-2 first-leg defeat and impressing on his players the importance of closing down the opposition quickly.

"We did a tactical session on Tuesday and the players got it straight away," added Ferguson. "We pressed MK Dons all over the pitch and they could not handle it.

"It was probably the best performance since I came back in, the concentration levels were magnificent."

MK Dons' impressive young manager Karl Robinson had no complaints about the result on Thursday, although he quite rightly pointed out that but for a dubious refereeing decision during the first leg that saw Posh awarded a controversial penalty, his team might have travelled to London Road with more than a 3-2 advantage.

"The tie turned on a refereeing decision but Peterborough deserved their victory at London Road," said Robinson. "We were not good enough on the night but I am full of pride for everyone involved with the club.

"I do not want to feel this pain again and we must make sure we come back stronger. People will forget but we were as good on Sunday as Posh were in the second leg."

The Dons have not been in the second tier since their move from Wimbledon in 2004 and will have to wait at least another year to get there.

Posh last secured promotion to the Championship in 2009 when Ferguson completed back-to-back promotions during his first spell in charge. He left the club early in the 2009-10 campaign and it turned into a nightmare season for the Cambridgeshire side, who worked their way through four managers, with Mark Cooper, Jim Gannon and Gary Johnson all following Ferguson. Not surprisingly perhaps, the club finished bottom of the league.

When Johnson left in January 2011 after nine months in charge, citing an uneasy relationship with the board, there seemed to be no end to the instability at London Road, but that appears to have changed under Ferguson.

And the manager will now end the current season prowling the Old Trafford touchline that has for so many years been the domain of his father, Sir Alex.

"I have played there, my dad works there and I told the boys in my team talk that it would have been a horrible feeling to watch MK Dons run out against Huddersfield," added the Posh boss, who started his career at Manchester United before moving to Wolves in 1994.

"It would have been devastating for everyone if we had not got there. It is a rare occasion when you get to play at stadium like that."

Victory for Posh could complete a memorable weekend for the Ferguson family, with his dad's team set to take on Barcelona in the Champions League final at Wembley the night before the League One contest.

"I won't be going to the Champions League final now but he can come to our game and hopefully we'll both win and it will be a lovely weekend for us all," added the Posh boss.

It will not be a complete home from home at Old Trafford for Ferguson Jr, as his team will be in the away dressing room and dug-out.

But that will not bother the Posh boss, who after a chastening experience at Preston has wasted no time in rebuilding his managerial reputation.

You can follow me throughout the season at



  • Comment number 1.

    excellent blog! there was a whole team performance last night, mkd ended the game looking somewhere between lost and punch drunk. there was plenty of energy and, as you say, desire.

    the final will be a cracker, we know posh will be up for it.

    up the posh.

  • Comment number 2.

    Darren Ferguson just seems to fit Posh. He can bring on young players very well. He learns from his mistakes: compare these two games. It will be a hard test at Old Trafford and Posh will need to be at their best there. No second chances this time.
    Craig Mackail-Smith will take some replacing when he goes this summer. If we go up, can't you use your powers of persuasion on him, Darren?

  • Comment number 3.

    POSH were brilliant last night, now we have to produce it again. Should be a cracking final. Two good teams that love to attack, backed by two voiciferous sets of fans. Can't wait.

    Up The POSH

  • Comment number 4.

    Yeah, we may have rode our luck in the first leg but everyone knows these play-offs are a lottery, one bit of good or bad luck here or there can sometimes make all the difference. Anyway, we would have been 3-0 up in the second leg if the ref wasn't so keen on the whistle. Huddersfield will rightly be favourites for the final, but Posh are 100% in two previous play-off experiences. Hold the back page for now. Up the Posh!!

  • Comment number 5.

    Delighted for Darren and for Kevin "Rooster" Russell, who tends to be the forgotten man in this partnership - I just wish that Wrexham had been willing to take the gamble that Posh did a few years back, as we might not have ended up where we are now. Good luck to both sides in the final - it should be a cracker.

  • Comment number 6.

    What a result! What an atmosphere! What a great night for the Posh! It was absolutely incredible last night, and it's massive for Peterborough to get to Old Trafford. Looking forward to a great day out on May 29th. UTP!

  • Comment number 7.

    Got nothing against Peterborough, but hope hope Huddersfield win. I like Lee Clark, but the way Alex Ferguson treated Preston by recalling all the loan players was an absolute disgrace. Him and his club have been fined for a lot of petty things, but he got away scot free with the one thing he should have been fined for.

  • Comment number 8.

    Never has a man lived off his dads successes like Mr Darren Ferguson.

  • Comment number 9.

    I have to agree with number 7. Although I wish Posh all the best, the absolutely disgraceful way that Alex Ferguson reacted to Preston sacking his son by simply recalling all their loan players. The loaning of players out to other teams, especially young players, should be to help with their development and get them playing first team football regularly, yet to Fergie, they're nothing more than something with which to help his son. And when it turns out his son doesn't do a good job and, like any other manager in that position, is sacked, Alex Ferguson resorts to petty acts like that. Sometimes I do wish the FA would stand up to him more, perhaps replace fines with more effective punishments.

  • Comment number 10.

    7. At 10:38 20th May 2011, RobbieSavagesFlowingLocks wrote:

    The way Alex Ferguson treated Preston by recalling all the loan players was an absolute disgrace. Him and his club have been fined for a lot of petty things, but he got away scot free with the one thing he should have been fined for.

    I agree.

    I used to give Alex Ferguson the benefit of the doubt in a lot of the things that he gets criticised for, such as complaining about officials and his ''mind games''.
    After all, it can be reasonably argued that he - often successfully - is attempting to give his team a psychological advantage in his choice of words.

    However, the move to call back the Manchester United loan players from Preston was just completely petty and spiteful.
    I'm sure that any parent will believe that their son or daughter was hard done by when they get sacked, but to vindictively punish PNE was a step too far.

    It's not even as if Darren Ferguson was unfairly dismissed. By the general yardstick of the time that a manager in the Championship is given, then his sacking was perhaps a little overdue.

    Although, I don't know how fair it is to blame Darren Ferguson for his father's actions in recalling the players, as I doubt that Ferguson jnr. had too much influence over that.

  • Comment number 11.

    It was always going to be a Posh v Huddersfield final in my eyes. Apart from hiiting the bar MK never really got into in last night and only have themselves to blame for not killing the tie off in the home leg.

    Well done Fergie, Darragh and the players..UTP

  • Comment number 12.

    8.At 10:59 20th May 2011, wal_sol wrote:
    Never has a man lived off his dads successes like Mr Darren Ferguson.
    in what way?

  • Comment number 13.

    @7: I think you will find that clubs have the right to recall loan players when they want, and the players they did recall, were due to leave within a few days anyway, this is also a blog about Peterborough and Ferguson Jr. Not Alex Ferguson.

    But I must say that even though I am from Peterborough, I hope they lose, I have no time for them and shall be rooting for Huddersfield.

  • Comment number 14.

    Now then,

    Thanks for your thoughts so far. The game obviously meant a lot to Posh fans - and one man in particular must have had a night to savour.

    I'm not exactly sure how much of the game had gone when the tannoy guy announced that someone in the crowd had just become the father of a baby boy. Now that is dedication.

  • Comment number 15.

    So who you tipping in the final Fletcher?

  • Comment number 16.

    It'll be interesting to see how Posh and Fergie Jnr. get on in the Championship next season. Will they have learnt anything from their dalliance with the second tier last season, and will that new found defensive solidity stand up to a better standard of attack.

    Having lived in MK for ten years I was sad to see them lose after that dubious penalty decision at Stadium:mk in the 1st leg, I'm sure Karl Robinson (if not poached by a bigger club) will have them well organised for another playoff push next season.

    For a more in-depth look at the place of playoffs in sport have a read of my blog:

  • Comment number 17.

    MK Dons didn't play that well last night but Robinson was correct to point out that Peterborough's second in the first leg was never a penalty. He can be confident of taking his team to the play-offs next year as they have been quietly impressive. As for the final, I make Huddersfield favourites, their strikers should damage Peterborough's leaky defence.

  • Comment number 18.

    i'm looking forward to a trip to old trafford to watch the mighty huddersfield, 27 games unbeaten by the way, but its ironic how ferguson jnr gets to grace his dads touchline, plus he will probably get the special treatment from the backroom staff, the referee and the person who hands out the losers medal, haha

  • Comment number 19.

    #13 chris neville Fair point about the blog not being about Alex Ferguson, but about Darren. Over the course of the season though, he was boss of PNE longer than he was of Peterborough and through his own failures took PNE to near the bottom of the table and then his spiteful Dad rubbed salt onto the wounds.

  • Comment number 20.

    12. At 11:46 20th May 2011, Reinasbaldhead wrote:

    in what way?

    I think he means in the way that Darren Ferguson, so far, is a moderately successful lower league manager, who has as many relegations as promotions on his CV.

    If he wasn't Alex Ferguson's son, then, firstly, he wouldn't find it as easy to get a coaching job, and, secondly, the media wouldn't be raving about his managerial record.

    Although, once again, it's not Darren Ferguson's fault that his father is a famous manager, but his successes, failures and potential should be judged on what he achieves/has the potential to achieve; not who his father is.

    It's similar to Nigel Clough. There was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary that he achieved in the 8 years that he managed in the non-league with Burton Albion. Yet, he cruises into a job in the Championship because his father was one of the club's most successful managers in history!

    To provide another Peterborough United link, Mark Cooper was probably more successful than Nigel Clough in the conference, which led Peterborough to appoint him as Darren Ferguson's successor. Cooper wasn't any more or less successful than Ferguson or Clough, yet he's back in the conference, managing Darlington, because his father's not a famous football manager!

  • Comment number 21.

    Must admit i agree with @8 but only to an extent.

    You must admit that the amount of publicity that young Ferguson receives is due to his father. Don't get me wrong, from what i've read and seen (which granted isn't a lot, considering i'm a Liverpool fan, and don't tend to look below the Premiership) he seems a good League One manager, and will undoubtedly have a bright future ahead of him, but you don't hear anywhere near as much of other managers around him, and that surely has to have something to do with his surname.

    Hope POSH do well, and more importantly that Darren gets the attention he deserves from results and not family.

  • Comment number 22.

    His record so far proves that he is a good league one manager, however he just doesnt cut it in the championship. His philosophy of attacking football with little focus on defense see his teams torn apart in the championship, with the odd spectatuclar result (6-4 v leeds). At preston he simply didn't make the cut, he turned our defense, which had been for many previous seasons our strongest part of the team, into a shambles. Signings such as wayne brown and craig morgan were players who were simply not good enough, in addition he forced out fans favourite youl mawene amd somehow turned sean st ledger into a shadow of the player he was previously. In regards to fergie senior he was spiteful, true the loans of de laet and josh king were due to finish, although these players were never good enough (king never scored or looked like scoring a league goal), the loan of matty james was supposed to be season long. He was a player who had heaps of potential and was clearly profiting from starting games in a tough league such as the championship, fergie by recalling him; again focused on personal reasons and potentially ruined the career of bright english player. Special mention must also go to fergies chum tony pullis who recalled danny pugh and michael tonge which was even more of a disgrace!

  • Comment number 23.

    Simon Cowell.

  • Comment number 24.

    Huddersfield fans - what do you reckon of Benik Afobe, the young lad you have on loan from Arsenal?

  • Comment number 25.

    disagree soul patch, the only time Darren lived off dad was while at Preston and got loaned a few players. I'm guessing one of the main reasons Alex let the lads go on loan to Preston was the distance aspects and easier for Utd staff to monitor. Even then, look where the players got Darren and Preston!

    Darren didn't get the Peterborough job for any other reason than that he was the best candidate, in much the same way as karl Robinson, Lee Bradbury and Lee Cark respectively were for their clubs.

    Oh and by the way Darren has 2 promotions and no relegations under his belt, he wasn't Preston boss when they went down was he?

  • Comment number 26.

    .25 no but he is the main reason that we went down!

  • Comment number 27.

    The main reason was too many players on high wages not giving 100% for example St Ledger. Seriously, this guy is meant to be an Irish International, can you seriously tell me he deserves his £12k a week?

    I do feel sorry for you in the way he brougtht with him Morgan, he was shocking at Boro too.

  • Comment number 28.


    Mark Cooper's dad was well known and respected in the football community in the 70's.

    Also, I think the point here is Darren Ferguson is not a great manager, but he is young so he might progress, he's got a long time til he's as old as fergs snr.

    But it's ironic that the people who talk about he only gets credit cus hes fergs snrs son, are actually only giving him stick cus hes fergs snrs son, if he was a nobodys son, i doubt he would even had a quarter of the posts about him on this blog.

    Also, he's obviously doing something right since he started at peterborough n i wish the same success n respect that all proffessionals deserve.

    Also about the loan situation, he only got those loans cus of his links with ferguson, and if there's a major change in the situation at a club (sacking of a manager/change of direction/change in the way the players are handled and managed) where u have invested some of your own development in (loan players), the u have every right to withdraw them.

    It's the same principle as well, as not selling a player to a rival, or someone in the same division, the manager of the club should have 100% reign to do what he wants with his players, as part of his vision for the club.

  • Comment number 29.

    20 - thank you, i wanted to explain it but every comment you write on this is 'referred for further consideration'. dont know whats so secret.

  • Comment number 30.

    1 problem i currently have as a huddersfield fan is where is a blog on our match. a blog on swansea & reading. now a blog on peterboro but no terriers blog. greatest match of the play-offs but nothing, maybe lazy journalism but seems a bit unfair.

  • Comment number 31.

    One player that summerises everything that I dislike about Ferguson, and that is Richard Chaplow. Discarded by Ferguson while he was at Preston, he went on to have a great season with Saints, even scoring against his old manager, to his disgust, and against Fergie senior in the FA Cup.

    I hope Huddersfield win, Darren Ferguson doesn't deserve another chance in the Championship

  • Comment number 32.

    7. At 10:38 20th May 2011, RobbieSavagesFlowingLocks wrote:
    the way Alex Ferguson treated Preston by recalling all the loan players was an absolute disgrace. Him and his club have been fined for a lot of petty things, but he got away scot free with the one thing he should have been fined for.

    petty maybe, but why on earth should he and his club be fined?!! the loan agreement terms state it's the parents the parent clubs prerogative to recall loan players at any time, with a period of notice given. what rule has been broken?!!!

    9. At 11:25 20th May 2011, Super Garth wrote:
    Alex Ferguson resorts to petty acts like that. Sometimes I do wish the FA would stand up to him more, perhaps replace fines with more effective punishments.

    erm...the fa recently gave him a 5 MATCH touchline ban. so how the heck do they not stand up to him over anything?!! do you actually have a clue what you are talking about?!! anyway, as stated no rules were broken whatsoever.

    ridiculous comments.

    anyway, darren didn't do a good job at preston, but this doesnt erase his good work in getting successive promotions with posh. he's still a relatively inexperienced manager and posh knew he was the best man to give the job to. good luck peterborough.

  • Comment number 33.

    Never has a man lived off his dads successes like Mr Darren Ferguson.


    I'm never ceased to be amazed by the witless comments people post on blogs !

  • Comment number 34.

    all these people who say that saf has been spiteful i agree with, but if my son had been sacked from a club that i had loaned out players too i would do the same.

    its called support and solidarity for your son.

  • Comment number 35.

    Daren deserve all the credit he has don well

  • Comment number 36.

    Darren's a big bully and lacks tactical nouse, just like his dad.
    His dad got lucky at United - eventually. With money to spend he was always going to win something one day. But how long did it take him to win a trophy?

    Darren can't build a team. The first time at Posh he inherited the late Keith Alexander's team - the likes of George Boyd, Aaron McLean and of course Craig Mackail-Smith.

    He spent a year at Preston North End: his record, apart from brutalising the team and demoralising many a player, was: P49 W13, D12, L24. Atrocious. The first time he had to create a team, he failed miserably.

    His lack of tactical awareness was found out in the championship, with Posh and of course with Preston - who it might be argued displayed a lack of common sense in signing him.

    If Posh were to win the play-offs, which they will, mini-Fergie will have to make way for somebody who knows what they are doing, otherwise it will be deja vu in the Championship for Posh and their fans, who deserve better.


  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 38.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 39.

    I am sensing many people feel the result is a foregone conclusion. Well, hopefully Huddersfield will have something to say about that! Shame no-one has bothered to blog about our unbeaten 2011 league run, up and coming young manager, excellent chairman or any other aspects. Apparently a twice-relegated manager is more deserving....

    As for living off of Daddy's success, well rumour ahs it Fergie sold Junior to Wolves as he was a bad influence on Ryan Giggs Same reason Lee Sharpe and Paul Ince eventually went.

    Although #36, Big Jack, if you think Fergie Snr is "lucky" maybe you should go and have a nap and come back when you're thinking straight!

  • Comment number 40.

    Seems abit unfair that whilst man utd are able to gain revenue from the champions league final at wembley they are also able to gain revenue from been able to host the play off final? surely this is unfair?

  • Comment number 41.

    Some of these comments are making me laugh out loud.
    Heres some facts for the more errrr, un-knowledgable people.
    1. Fergie has no Relegations on his CV, just 2 promotions, and one Play-off.
    2. Preston would have gone down whoever was in charge, there was no money or support from the chairman. Phil Brown is a quality manager and he failed to improve their from.
    3. Whilst at Posh Fergie Jnr, has certainly not lived off his Fathers success, he has built his own success. Jealousy is a horrible trait.
    4. To say that Darren inherited a great side from Keith Alexander, is also untrue, KA was on a club record losing streak when he departed. And KA also went on record stating that he had never seen CMS or Mclean play before the chairman signed them.
    5. To say that Posh were torn apart in the Championship under Fergie is also untrue, we got turned over by one team, Newcastle away, the eventual winers of the league, most defeats were by one goal margins.
    6. Tony Pullis also recalled all his loan players when Darren left Preston, is he related to Darren too?

    I hope this has cleared some of the untruths up. Lets hope for a great final with two good footballing teams, plenty of goals and the right team wins on the day.

    Up the Posh.
    @mrcraiglyons on twitter!

  • Comment number 42.

    Paul, if you're going to blog on the playoffs can you at least blog on all of the matches, or at least mention all of the teams? It seems massively biased that the only football league blogs we ever get are for the Championship, and when you do mention League 1 it's just to cling on to SAF's coat-tails. It is interesting that Fergie Jnr will manage at Old Trafford, but I thought our 3-3 draw was much more interesting as did anyone else who saw it, or our 27 match unbeaten run? Decent read, but this just seems like lazy journalism once again.

  • Comment number 43.

    Why do Huddersfield fans keep going on about their 27 match unbeaten run, it wasn't that good or you would have been promoted.

  • Comment number 44.

    1. fergie jr has no relegations on his CV due to the fact he was so poor that he got sacked before relegation became a true possibility
    2. You will find if you look at the stats that phil brown vastly improved the clubs form, however due to the fact he came in to a club that was 13 points from safety (ebntirely darren's fault), there wasn't much he could actually do in fact to leave the club third from bottom and only 6 points from safety is actually an acheivement.
    3. if anyone is actually jealous of a man who, although has proven success in the lower leagues, has effectivley got two teams relegated from the championship, well they need their heads screwing on properly.
    4. Pullis was being petty not wanting to ruin his relationship with great wine, with fergie sr

  • Comment number 45.

    And Phil chose the correct team to blog about, its all well going on a 27 game unbeaten run, but losing the 28th meant they counted for nothing, zilch, zero.

    Congratulations to Darren Ferguson, his staff, and his players, on adding yet another Promotion to their CV's.


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