Early in 2007, not long after he had taken over as manager of Peterborough United, then firmly anchored in League Two, Darren Ferguson publicly suggested there were players at London Road with the ability to play in the Premier League. Successive promotions later, the number of top-level scouts watching Peterborough's pre-season matches attest to the fact that what was regarded as no more than a piece of standard managerial psychology is now being taken literally.
As far as Ferguson is concerned, the likes of Aaron McLean, Craig Mackail-Smith and George Boyd will hopefully get their chance to prove him right while wearing the blue shirt of the Posh. After all, according to chairman Darragh MacAnthony, they won't have long to wait. A top-10 finish this time around and promotion next season is the plan.
As Ferguson acknowledged last week, however, the club's chances of achieving that aim will largely depend on whether his key players stay fit. Purchases have been made in the close season, but while the £800,000 spent on midfielders Tommy Rowe (Stockport County), Lee Frecklington (Lincoln City) and Toumani Diagouraga (Hereford) might be money well spent, none could be described as a household name.
Krystian Pearce, a young central defender signed on a season-long loan from Birmingham, might be influential, but Ferguson will once again be relying on the players who have taken the unfashionable club to unaccustomed heights. That he already knows the team he would like to put out in the opening fixture at Derby next Saturday may be down to good forward planning, but also suggests a lack of competition.
"A lot of people expected me to go out and sign another striker, and we tried, we went for [West Ham's] Freddie Sears [on loan] who would have been a great addition, but that didn't happen and I'm not going to bring in players just for the sake of it. We have a good squad that is young and hungry," said Ferguson, who was reportedly the subject of interest from Reading and West Bromwich Albion before signing a new four-year contract last month.
He admitted the prospect of taking a club through the leagues, a feat not achieved by his father Sir Alex, was one of the biggest reasons he agreed to stay. "I've always said that I am happy here, and the aim now is to try and get into the Premier League. My ambition is to take a club through the leagues, my father didn't do that, and we have a wonderful chance of achieving that," he said.
For McLean, who scored 18 goals last season (Mackail-Smith scored 26), the transformation effected by Ferguson means Peterborough's rise and rise can continue.
"The personnel we have at the club, the way we train, just everything about the club, the professionalism is top drawer. Before [Ferguson arrived] we'd turn up for training a couple of minutes before we had to, go straight on to the training pitch for an hour or so, get back in our cars and go back off home.
"Now we come in early, eat together, stretch together before training, work with the fitness coach in the mornings, eat together again, and train in the afternoon. Everything about the place is professional, and for a lot of us who hadn't experienced this, hopefully if we do kick on in our careers, we're used to it now and it can only stand us in good stead."Reuse content