Guest Post: Written by Mike Gilham (the biggest Peterborough fan I know!) and edited by Andrew Howells.
As I read with interest about Wolves, Blackburn, Bolton, Wigan and QPR’s fight to avoid the drop, I started thinking to myself: ‘what would I rather see each week, my team winning in a lower division or struggling against the likes of Manchester United and the elite of the Premiership?’ With that in mind, I ask: what is wrong with the Championship? My club Peterborough United are proud to be in the Championship.
For those who haven’t witnessed or kept abreast of The Posh’s remarkable rise from playing in League Two only a few seasons ago, we presently sit 17th in the Championship. This weekend should see confirmation of a second consecutive season at this level. Needless to say, we are one of only six clubs in the Championship who have never played in the Premiership – and in all likelihood, never will.
Posh survive on the lowest home gates in the Championship (currently averaging 9,100) on account of both our location (an hour from London by train and an hour by car from Birmingham/East Midlands) and our lack of success over the years. The club does not have the recent success of a Blackpool or the historic success of Nottingham Forest – the latter drawing on Peterborough for supporters – yet of course, we are in the same league and we have beaten both this season.
So how have Posh got into this position? Well, it’s all down to Big Ron Manager, the documentary aired on Sky One where Ron Atkinson visited Peterborough United to try and solve all the Club’s problems. The programme was a car crash (as the producers no doubt expected) and whilst we all cringed with embarrassment, one young man who was looking for a new challenge, watched and thought to himself: ‘I’ve got to help’. That man was multi-millionaire Darragh MacAnthony.
D-Mac, as he’s affectionately known – a Liverpool supporter – took over the club in 2006 with the aim of doing two things: run a football club like a proper business and also aim for the Holy Grail, the Premiership – a tall feat when you are currently plying your trade in League Two.
The Club’s success over the intervening six years has been down to the policies developed by D-Mac. These include not signing journeymen footballers, but instead looking for ‘young and hungry’ players. These are players who have typically started out with a league club, been released and proved that they can do it by working their way up through the non-league structure. George Boyd, Craig Mackail Smith and Aaron McLean are the most successful examples (so far!).
It goes without saying that the money D-Mac has put into our Club has ensured stability as we strive to be self-sufficient with such low gates. In an attempt to drum up support, D-Mac has frozen season ticket prices for three seasons (we are currently in year two) with a halfway line seat costing just £400 for the season.
Apart from the money owed to D-Mac, we understand Posh is not in debt. Unlike Portsmouth and Glasgow Rangers, we have not tried to buy success and D-Mac’s young and hungry policy means our teams of the last few years have comprised mostly of non-league players, costing relatively little to buy and in wages. The hunger of these players to succeed is the backbone of Peterborough United.
The downside of the low gates however means in order to balance the books, players have had to be sold. The last twelve months has seen the sales of Aaron McLean to Hull, Craig Mackail Smith to Brighton (he has since led the Scottish attack) and Ryan Bennett to Norwich (straight into the first team), netting approximately £7.5 million.
This summer will prove to be no different with Paul Taylor and George Boyd both likely to leave for pastures new, with Taylor having in the region of twelve premiership clubs currently chasing him. The supporters do not want him to leave, but the survival of the club is more important than any one player.
I look forward to next season. With incoming players such as Tyrone Barnett (the clubs record signing at £1m, although D-Mac believes he will sell for many multiples of this in years to come) able to prove their worth, can Posh achieve a third season in the Championship? Who knows – one thing that is for sure though; a player or two will be sold next summer to balance the books!
So I say to the supporters of Wolves, Blackburn, Bolton, Wigan and QPR: there is nothing wrong with the Championship. It may not carry the prestige of the Premiership, but you will win more matches, see some good football and not be constantly worried about relegation.