After relegation down to League One was secured and the 54 points which relegated Fergie’s men being the highest points total for a relegated side in the 2012-2013 season, it was safe to say I was resigned to Posh being nearly men – nearly getting back to the Championship, before something at the last minute intervenes. Poor form cost Posh countless times on their attempts to return to the second tier, with a Play-Off Semi Final defeat the closest we got.
With the whole drama of Points Per Game in COVID times again snatching promotion away from us, it really felt like it was never going to happen. Yet, even in the midst of a pandemic, Posh battled on and won automatic promotion back to the Championship with no crowd to witness it. Still, that didn’t stop me jumping for joy and celebrating the promotion from my room in Leeds after the heroic draw versus Lincoln. After watching through the strange portal of my laptop – with ifollow providing me with most games hassle-free – the prospect of being able to return to a football ground to witness Posh back in the Championship felt like a faraway dream.
To be able to watch Jonson Clarke-Harris’ goal-scoring exploits in the flesh, to see the likes of Josh Knight and Jack Marriott back in Posh blue alongside the hard work and determination of Nathan Thompson, the build-up to this season was the most I’ve looked forward to a new campaign in my lifetime. Some predicted Posh to surprise a few teams and push on in their first season back for nearly a decade in the Championship. I went in with a little more caution, though, as the step-up is a tough one to manage and usually requires a steady acclimatisation to the demands of the league above. The likes of Luton and Coventry needed a season to get used to the demands of the Championship and it’s hard to just seamlessly make the step-up and compete with a number of sides still benefitting from parachute payments. Speaking of Luton, the nerves on the way to our opening fixture at Kenilworth Road were unbearable.
Nerves for the match for sure, but nerves in general of being back in a packed out football ground for the first time since before Coronavirus. Walking back into a football ground, albeit being at the opposition’s home ground, was a surreal and strange moment – one that felt so far away when I watched Posh win at the likes of Plymouth and Swindon last season. Venturing far and wide for your club certainly felt like it was never going to return. In a way, the 3-0 humbling we were served up by The Hatters felt irrelevant compared to the joy of being back in a football ground. Still, the performance was poor to say the least – Luton now 5th in the Championship for good reason, brushing us aside on the opening day with the likes of Frankie Kent going from solid defender in League One to a deer in the headlights a division above.
Posh’s opening day defeat felt like a rude awakening to the challenges of the Championship, with Luton’s intensity and constant closing down of the ball too powerful for Posh to contain. The likes of Harry Cornick ran riot for Luton, with their new big striker up top Adebayo netting for The Hatters. Luton came into that match with a clear plan, to outmuscle the new side entering the division. Posh, on the other hand, let the occasion overwhelm them. This would become a consistent trend of Posh’s away performances back in the Championship, losing away at the likes of Coventry and Sheffield United without a lot of fight being shown. The 6-2 demolition offered from The Blades came after their abysmal start to the division, as Billy Sharp and John Fleck had a field day against the likes of Conor Coventry and Josh Knight, who ball-watched for the majority of the match. Posh’s away performances haven’t exactly helped the goal difference, with Christy Pym and then David Cornell both trying but failing to keep out teams with 27 conceded in just 14 matches so far.
Yet, in isolation, the away performances might indicate a complete hopelessness in the Posh camp. Posh at London Road, however, are a different proposition altogether. Returning to London Road was even more special than being back in a general football ground and back to the place where so many of my football memories lie. The Derby home match to kickstart our Championship home campaign is already slotted straight into those memories, a last-minute Siriki Dembele winner spoiling Derby’s day in Cambridgeshire. With Posh failing to live up to expectation on the road, Posh seem to confound the expectation away fans have rocking up to little old Peterborough. Birmingham had 4000 odd supporters turn up to London Road, confidence beaming in their masses. But, the final score was 3-0 in Posh’s favour – Troy Deeney in the pocket of teenage sensation Ronnie Edwards all afternoon. New signing Jorge Grant netted his first in Posh colours in what was a complete performance to leave Lee Bowyer scratching his head. Posh confounded even our expectations recently with two back-to-back wins for the first time this season, too. Are we finally seeing Fergie’s men acclimatise to the second tier? Both wins certainly show Posh’s grit and determination by winning a six pointer versus Hull after the nay-sayers came out in force, with the QPR win seeing Posh turn over a promotion hopeful in the last minute.
It might be the Peterborough fan deep within me, but I always seem to expect something to go wrong with Posh. But, with Darren Ferguson securing promotion to the Championship after countless years in the wilderness, it seems Posh are going against the usual pessimistic script fans expect. Being 20th in the Championship is slightly precarious, helped by Cardiff and Hull below us in dire form, but Fergie’s men are beginning to play with their heads above water. Concerns at the start of the season were that Posh might be out of their depth, but with a draw against Bournemouth and now a win over QPR, Fergie’s side are capable.
The task now is to play with this freedom and determination when the going gets tough, and hopefully remain in the second tier for some time. With a manager who is a part of the Posh furniture, a passionate fanbase desperate to consolidate, and a squad eager to showcase their true ability, a stay in the second tier could well be on.
By Kelan Sarson