Goals, goals, goals.
That's how many would sum up Peterborough United's 2010/11 campaign in League One. The Posh's tally of 106 is the highest of any team in the division for a single season in the past decade, and one which ultimately saw them promoted via the Play-Offs at the expense of Huddersfield Town.
For manager Darren Ferguson, the man who guided the club to glory and who is now back for a third spell as boss, the goal of promotion was a clear one upon his re-appointment in January 2011.
In an exclusive Q&A, he's been reliving what was a memorable campaign for those associated with the club, and drawing comparisons between the class of 2011 and class of 2019...
Firstly, tell us about the decision to re-join Peterborough in 2011 after your first successful spell there…
“It was an easy decision. I had just left Preston after an interesting year up there and I remember getting a text off the Chairman, asking if I would see him for a chat, not really knowing what it was about. But, as soon as I met up with him, it wasn’t an issue. I knew the club, they had some good players in the squad at that time and I was confident that I could get the job done.”
You built quite a squad at that time too…
“When I came back, we tweaked a couple of things within the squad; we changed the formation because Aaron McLean had gone by that time. We put Craig Mackail-Smith and Lee Tomlin up front and George Boyd as a number 10. We went to a diamond with Grant McCann at the base of it, Tommy Rowe on the left and a combination of [James] Wesolowski and people like that, we had goals and really good players going forward. But, with that, we had a really good balance in the team too. You always have to pick a team, formation-wise, with the players you have got in that team and it certainly worked with the players that we had in that squad.”
Did you expect to finish where you did that season, having come into the club half way through the campaign?
“It can be difficult, but when I sat down with the Chairman and we aimed for 17 wins to get into the top two that season, I think we ended up finishing fourth and it was a decent marker. I was always confident going into the Play-Offs that if we performed on the day, and with a bit of luck in there as well, I had the players to win the games. We got that bit of luck in Milton Keynes in the first leg, I have to say. In terms of what we had as a team and the identity that we had as a team, it was simple - we were very attack-minded and wanted to score goals.”
You mentioned those Play-Off Semi-Finals, what are your memories of them?
“The first leg was very interesting, to be honest. We were 1-0 up very early but then I had to replace my centre-half and goalkeeper at half-time, so it changed the balance of things. The first 20 minutes of the second half, MK Dons, if I am honest, just blew us away. We had a man sent off as well; I remember [George] Baldock having a great chance to make it 4-1 and that would have probably been the tie over. But then Marc Little went up the pitch and got a penalty for us, and McCann always took a good penalty; I felt that if it stayed 3-2 I was always confident that we would go through in the second leg. For me, the second-leg performance is probably up there as one of the top three performances as a manager, we were outstanding on the day. Everything just went to plan; we could have won by five, and that is not being disrespectful to MK Dons, we just blew them away. We just controlled it from start to finish. We were a real threat all over the pitch and the only surprise that night was that we didn’t score more, but we deserved to go through, so we knew that we had Huddersfield in the Final.”
And to play that Final at Old Trafford must have been special for you…
“It was really nice that it was at Old Trafford and even better for me because we were given the home dressing room and dugout, so that was quite nice. The night before, Manchester United lost to Barcelona at Wembley, so that is why the game was at Old Trafford. We had a lot of goals that season; McCann was at the prime of his career at that stage, Mackail-Smith not just brought his goals but his energy and his pressing was outstanding. There was the brilliance of Tomlin and Boyd too, so we had a really good balance throughout the team - we got to the Final in confident mood. I never changed the team, we knew if we performed to levels we could, than it would not be a problem for us. Once we got the first, that was it, we scored another one in a matter of minutes and it was game over after that really.”
With those experiences in mind, what does Peterborough United mean to you?
“Obviously this place means a lot to me, I have been here three times now and I have been hugely successful over the years here. I have a very good relationship with the Chairman which, in my opinion, is paramount, and the most important relationship as a manager to have. I understand how he wants to work and we both want to bring in young players and develop them - this season is no different to the rest, so all those things are a real plus. I have a great relationship with everyone at the club; the fans and this club have a real DNA about them, they haven’t been promoted for about six years now and I feel that we are due one.”
You’re back at the club now for a third spell, would you say this team - with the likes of Marcus Maddison, Mo Eisa and Ivan Toney - is similar to the 2011 team?
“It is different, every team you’ll ever have is different. The clear comparison is that we are scoring goals this season and the formation is near enough the same as it was back then. The team back then was probably more of a footballing team, whereas this one is more dynamic in terms of counter-attacks. They are probably the best I’ve had in that respect. We have goals in us, of course, but we have some brilliant defenders. Eight clean sheets already; the club only managed 10 all season last year. The team that got promoted that season at Old Trafford kept a lot of clean sheets, we had defenders like Ryan Bennett who we ended up selling on for £4 million in the end, I think. I can see comparisons between the two teams, for sure, but it would be difficult for me to compare them until the end of the season, because this team would have to achieve promotion like that side did all those years ago.”