Amid all this turmoil, there’s work to be done. It falls to Kevin Ball to drum up enthusiasm among the rebellious waifs and strays left behind by the PDC whirlwind. If anyone can do it, surely it’s Bally who somehow produced a home win, the only one of the season, as caretaker manager when we went down with 15 points. Robert Graves*, manager of the Peterborough United Supporters (PUSFC) team and a regular Posh voice on local radio, did the honours when we last met Peterborough United in a cup game (Jan 2012) and returned – before the PDC dismissal – with the mischievous suggestion that the wait for our next encounter will be shorter – next season in the Championship (though he’s surer about us going down than Posh being promoted). For that impertinence alone, he should have the smile wiped off his face by a 5-0 home win in tomorrow night’s Capital One cup third round tie …
Salut! Sunderland: Second top of League One seems a decent enough start to the season. Confident of a quick return to the Championship?
I’m confident we’re going to be involved in the shake-up come the end of the season yes. Am I confident that we’ll go up when all is said and done though – not quite so much. That’s not to say I don’t think we have the quality in the side, I’m just aware that League One this season is a very strong league – and I’m sure that many other fans will be saying the same things as I am. We can’t all be right, there will be some losers, so I’m just hoping that it’s not us. I’d put a bet on us for sure, but it would be a reasonable one not the mortgage
What is the difference you perceive between the Posh you wrote about when answering questions here in January last year and the Posh on Sept 2013?
I think in terms of the team we’re pretty similar, we’re playing the same style and going about the game in the same way. We’ve never really changed that regardless of how well or badly we’ve been doing. The biggest thing for me is that we now have a much stronger squad – we’ve got genuine options from the bench that can bring something a little different if it’s needed. I don’t think an injury or two would have anywhere near the same impact on us now as it did back then. We absolutely still have some key players, but the folks underneath that tier are certainly of a better standard than they have been before.
And what do you make of Darren Ferguson’s second spell as manager, and Darragh MacAnthony’s record as owner?
To be honest I was a little sceptical when Darren came back – not that I doubted his ability, just that I wasn’t sure if returning could ever bring the same success and partnership between manager and chairman that had gone before. I’ll happily hold my hands up right now though and say that on the whole it’s worked out just fine. Clearly last season when we were relegated from the Championship was hard – especially the early part where we went through a long, long spell without a win that ultimately cost us – but Darragh stuck with Darren when I think many other chairmen might have been more than tempted to pull the plug, and it started to pay off. Over the final third of the season we were the form team – we hit our stride and almost made the impossible possible. In fact, we should have – the way we eventually threw it all away at Crystal Palace on that final day of the season was just heart-breaking for everyone involved. You couldn’t have written it with any more twists and turns – it was pure theatre, pure Posh.
To get us in a cup game two seasons running is remarkable, all the more so for us since we have had MK Dons in the same successive seasons. I bet you wish it had been Man Utd or Liverpool.
Obviously yeah – Liverpool at Anfield, Man Utd at Old Trafford, or Arsenal at the Emirates would have been the perfect draw, but we just never get any luck that way in cup competitions. We basically seem to just bounce between you, Reading, and West Brom!
I asked about this last time but it’s a subject that fascinates me: how many of today’s Peterborough supporters can or, despite their youth, do relate to that astonishing period culminating in promotion from the old Division Four in 1961. Are there characters from that era who still pop up at games or functions?
There are a surprising number of fans around who still fondly remember those days and those teams – it was incredible really and it’s part of the club’s history that it’s important never to forget. Names like Emery, Bly, Rigby, McNamee, Rayner are still heard around the place all the time – it usually doesn’t take any new Posh signing long to be compared to one of them in one way or another that’s for sure.
What is your honest assessment of the difference between Premier and League One standards of play?
There’s a clear gap between the two, of course there is, but I think more and more it’s perhaps becoming less technical and more ‘pace and power’. My personal opinion is that the technical level of many players (not all!) is much higher down the ladder than it used to be – you don’t often hear players who make the step into the premier league (like our very own Dwight Gale as a very recent example) talk about how suddenly it’s much more technical and they aren’t skilled enough, but you do almost always hear players talking about getting used to the pace and strength/power of the opposition. It’s certainly a resource issue in many cases – at the top level the number of staff that clubs have to fitness, conditioning, diet etc. is staggering now in comparison to just a relatively short number of years previous.
Have you players now who you regard as having a particularly bright future?
Yeah. Obviously we’ve lost a couple very recently – both George Boyd and Dwight Gayle are now playing premiership football – but we still have some players that I genuinely believe could make the grade in the premiership if given the chance. The obvious candidate is Lee Tomlin. He’s an enigma of a player, and one that divides even many Posh fans. I can only say that, in my opinion, the lad has everything needed to move on and play in the top-tier. He’s technically fantastic, strong, deceptively quick…and certainly this season had looked to have sorted his attitude out a little until it all went south over a proposed move to Celtic that his agent clearly wanted to push through. I think his chance will come, it’ll just be up to him at the time to grab it.
Another notable mention would be Tommy Rowe, who slips under the radar for lots of fans but is so sorely missed when he’s not around that it’s clear what an influence he is in the side. In the ‘slightly too early to tell but the potential could well be there’ bucket we then have Britt Assombalonga who’s been a bit of a sensation since his summer move from Watford, and Jack Payne who is certainly a player that has that calmness about him which you often see in players that are able to make the step up.
Who’s going up in your division and who’s going down?
In terms of up then us obviously, I’ll get that right out of the way before I think about it for too long and the doubts start to creep in. After that I think it’s going to be very tight…I’ll say Preston and then Orient via the play-offs. Down are Notts County, Carlisle, Gillingham, and Tranmere.
Less important, of course, but name the Premier top four in order. And the three for the drop
Arsenal, Man Utd, Liverpool, Chelsea. West Brom, Hull, and yeah Sunderland (sorry).
If Sunderland are neither top four (!) nor (less likely) in your bottom three, where will we finish?
I think it’ll be close between you and Crystal Palace for 18th – I’m just tipping Palace to stay up mainly because I think we’d be due a little more cash from the Gayle transfer as a result.
If you want to read what we’re saying about PDC and the chop, choose any of the latest articles by easy navigation of the home page: https://safc.blog
If you snatch a result against us, who do want to face next round? Winnable game or payday for the club?
Either would be great – I think you instantly want a big club, a Man Utd or Arsenal, but after that you want a home tie against a team you feel like you can beat – Tranmere if they get past Stoke for example.
What most inspires you about modern football and what most appals?
I wouldn’t perhaps go so far to say that it inspires me, but I am somewhat proud of the fact that our leagues here are so competitive. Outside of the English leagues it always seems like there are a couple of clubs that just hoover everything up each year – the cup upsets and that kind of stuff just don’t happen as often. It makes it infinitely richer in my view, the feeling that your team could be the one about to do a Sutton Utd.
I can think of a thousand things I’d like to eradicate from the modern game – diving, time-wasting, most agents, all-seated stadia, players who burn bank notes, John Terry, the list goes on. Diving is in the news right now though following the Ashley Young incident, so I’ll go for that as the thing that most appals. It needs action by the FA really – a bit of retrospective punishment based on video reviews would soon have players thinking twice. Some balls from some more managers wouldn’t go amiss either – full credit to David Moyes for that.
If the authorities were to do a single thing to improve the lot of ordinary supporters, what should it be?
I think the time has come to take a look at what is financially being asked of supporters today. Tickets prices, programme prices, catering prices, replica kit prices etc have been escalating over the last few years. With ticket prices in particular, they are now clearly and undisputedly impacting on current attendances – and will therefore also impact future attendances as kids won’t be taken along for the ‘first game’ that just hooks you in for life. If we’re not careful, a whole generation of kids will grow up having never been taken to see a game because of the cost implications – and once they have something else to do on a Saturday afternoon, football is going to find it very hard to break back in. Football has always been a sport for everyone, but it’s in danger of losing a little bit of that.
Club vs country: who wins for you and why?
Country. Every. Single. Time. I love my club, absolutely, but to any player the ultimate aim should be to pull on the shirt of their country. It should be something you would run through a brick-wall to do. It should be something you’d do without question, without doubt, without the slightest care of where or when you are being asked to play. But it’s not, and that saddens me. I understand that clubs pay wages, so I can totally get managers asking their international counterparts to go easy, or to rest people. No problems there at all. But the players themselves should be totally committed to whatever is being asked of them – minor niggles that magically disappear in time for their next club games drive me insane. No player is bigger than their country (no player is bigger than their club), so if I was an international manager and I ever had even the slight hint of doubt that a player was anything other than 100% committed, they’d be out of the next squad and replaced by somebody else that wanted it.
Will you make it up to Sunderland for the game? If not how will you keep tabs? Predict the outcome.
On a weekend there is no doubt I’d be there. But on a Tuesday night, it’s such a distance to travel and it would mean time off work too. Also, as it happens, I may actually be at another game that same evening anyway. I’ll keep tabs any way I can – phones these days are wonderful things, so a combination of Twitter, internet radio and good old-fashioned sms will keep me totally updated. The outcome? 1-2 Posh, Assombalonga and Tomlin with the goals.
* Robert Graves on himself:
Well, I’m a blonde male, blue eyes, about 6ft 1in … wait .. what, you don’t mean that kind of update. OK, well work wise I’m in the training department of an engineering software company. Posh connections wise, I’m the manager of the Peterborough United Supporters (PUSFC) team, and the regular fanzine reporter on the local BBC radio station. I’ve been managing the supporters’ team for something like 7 years now, and I’ve made a lot of great friends through it. We play matches dotted throughout the season in the national IFA league on Saturday mornings – usually against whoever Posh are facing that afternoon (home or away). So, as I write this, I’m putting together a squad of fans to host our local counterparts from MK Dons on Saturday. As for the “cocky” comment – no, absolutely not, not at all. If I came over that way it’s most likely just because I’m a fan – and what fan isn’t full of confidence and blind, often misplaced, faith for their own team?
Interview: Colin Randall
Fancy leaving a comment? Not sure what you have to say fits this post? Go to the new feature – https://safc.blog/2013/07/salut-sunderland-the-way-it-is/ – and say it there.