by FLP Guest columnist Graham Westley
I WROTE in this column two weeks ago about my chairman Darragh MacAnthony’s outburst around our club’s performances. My reaction was a positive one and, to be fair, my players won 4-1 at Colchester that weekend.
People expressed surprise to me this week at my dismissal from Peterborough but, despite my reaction, I wasn’t shocked.
Mine was a short tenure – I lasted just seven months but I did achieve some decent outcomes.
My win record was 44 per cent despite inheriting a team in 18th place which had a strong ‘loss’ record. We had moved into mid-table safety in 14th and became one of the country’s top scoring teams. We enjoyed a strong FA Cup run and took West Brom to penalties in the fourth round.
I had developed and sold Conor Washington to QPR in a sizeable seven-figure deal and received similarly big offers for other players that I felt I had a strong hand in developing.
I had helped Conor and Michael Smith (both Northern Ireland) to full international status and Chris Forrester to a Republic of Ireland squad call-up, and I received a commendation from Barry Fry on the ‘best performance’ in his 20 years at Posh.
There was a tough spell in February/March when we struggled for results with a significant amount of key men absent and after we cashed in on Conor out of necessity.
Our squad was tested and my newness meant that I didn’t really know enough about everybody to get the very best from the team that soon and with so many issues.
But we bounced back and won four of my last eight games and I did blood a lot of novice players in League One which will be great for them in the long-term.
Just last weekend in what turned out to be my final match in charge, we counted under 300 League starts in our onfield 11! That is youth!
So why was I fired?
The chairman did put forward ‘home results’ as a tentative reason on his twitter account. But I think there was a much bigger issue really. I don’t think anybody really failed to understand results.
The facts are that after I worked out my best team early on, I won six on the bounce and was November’s League One Manager of the Month. We were flying.
But the losses of Ben Alnwick, Michael Smith, Gabriel Zakuani, Ricardo Santos, Michael Bostwick, Callum Elder, Chris Forrester, Jermaine Anderson, Lee Angol and Conor Washington for a whole range of reasons but for good chunks of time were, at times, too much for our squad to bear.
With those lads we were strong. Without them, not so strong. We were a small League One club – not Sheffield United, Wigan or Coventry.
The situation was that the chairman was very clear to me that he wants promotion as title-winners next season. So I was very clear with him about what we need and who needs to stay or go. He disagreed with me. It is that simple. That was our big issue.
He believed in certain players that I didn’t believe in and vice-versa. We enjoyed a fantastic rapport but we just couldn’t get over those points of disagreement. At times, I probably argued too hard for my own good.
In the end, the chairman is the boss and his word ends every discussion. I just couldn’t sit back and accept things that I simply didn’t believe in. I wanted to keep lads he wanted out and to cull lads he wanted in.
I did not want to be fired. But nor did I want to keep the job and not deliver the goods. It wasn’t about being a maverick; it was about winning. I wanted to change his mind, not fall out. Darragh has led Posh into the Championship twice and I massively respect that achievement and believe in him. I understand why he trusts his opinion.
I enjoyed working for him and I wouldn’t hesitate to work for him again. I say that sincerely. We had a good relationship and we’ll meet for a drink when he returns to the UK.
But as hard as I tried, I could not give up on one or two key issues that I felt would damage our title chances.
It is never nice to be sacked, but the honest words of thanks from players and staff that you have helped to develop make a huge difference and I have received many of those. I know I made a difference to many developing players and their future success will be part of my legacy at the club.
One lad called to say that my sacking had actually made him realise just how serious the responsibility of being a professional player is.
It had made him realise that things I had tried to get across but that he struggled to accept before my sacking were in fact true. That is positive.
For me now, it is about looking forwards. I left Stevenage at the end of 2014/15 after qualifying for the League Two play-offs for the second time in two seasons in League Two. I felt that I had done an outstanding job to achieve that result. But to no avail! This year I leave Posh four places higher than when I joined. That might not be mind-blowing but it is progress, especially in the circumstances.
Looking forward, we all hope that our next role is going to be the best job that we have ever done.
Fair play to DMac102; he told me not to hesitate to push people his way for a reference; and I would do that happily. We enjoyed a great rapport and even though we didn’t go on to win promotion together, I honestly don’t believe either of us will be surprised at the other’s next success.