The Dugout - Ferguson: Posh better equipped to go up
Exclusive: Peterborough manager Darren Ferguson believes that the Posh will be better prepared for life in the Championship if they can achieve promotion from League One for the second time in three seasons via the play-offs.
You finished the regular season on a high with a big win over Dagenham and Redbridge. It must be good to go into the npower League One play-offs on the back of that result.
We needed it really. A clean sheet and five goals was good. A good result and a good performance, in the second half anyway.
It was a little bit difficult because we knew we were in the play-offs before the final game, and we knew we couldn't get automatic promotion either. It was a bit difficult for the players, but we haven't switched off. I think we are ready for (the play-off semi-final against MK Dons) now. I'm looking forward to it, and I know the players are.
We weren't overly concerned about who our opponents were, but we wanted to try and finish third of fourth. Then Huddersfield continued winning so it became between fourth and fifth. We then wanted to finish fourth, because it means that we play at home in the second leg. Our pitch isn't the best at the moment, and we wanted it to be a night game. London Road is far better at night. So I was pleased that we tied up fourth.
Do you believe that Peterborough are better equipped to cope in the Championship should you earn promotion than when you won promotion in 2009?
Yes, far better. I think that I've got a bit more experience, and the players definitely have. I think that last time we had just got used to winning, and maybe got a little bit cavalier in thinking we were strong enough for the Championship. We've all had a taste for it now. As a club I think we are far better equipped. We know what we would be going into and where we would need to strengthen.
We want to get in there and establish ourselves as a Championship team - wherever that may be, as long as we stay in the league. There is a big gap between the two leagues, but there are several examples of clubs of a similar size to ourselves who have become established, and that is what we will be looking to do if we get there.
Do you think you would have been challenging for automatic promotion if you had returned to Peterborough earlier in the season?
I think we probably would, yes. We've done well to get in the play-offs and win 79 points, but I think we have fallen just a bit short. We drew games against Huddersfield and Bournemouth which probably stopped our momentum. We had two or three opportunities to get to second when we were playing on Friday nights before everybody else, but we didn't take them. That just stopped us in our tracks a little bit.
The play-off final is at Old Trafford - given your connections with Manchester United, including being a former player would it be extra special to win promotion there?
A few people have said that to me, but I think it's a big thing for everyone - players, staff, everyone involved with the club. We'll take 30,000 up there if we make it. I think it's a great stadium, although I'd probably rather it was played at Wembley to be honest. It would have been nice to have got the chance to manage at Wembley, but Old Trafford is a pretty good second.
Will you prepare any differently for the play-offs than you normally do for any other match?
Our preparation has been spot on, really. We are always pretty thorough in terms of what we do with our positioning, what the players need to know about the opposition, how we can break them down, that type of thing.
Preparations for these games are not going to be too different. The only thing which is different is the time of the game. The first leg is at 12:15, which is something we are not used to. I suppose we train at around that time most days anyway, so I don't think it will have a big bearing on us.
It's your second stint of working with chairman Darrah McAnthony; what appealed to you about returning to renew your partnership with him?
I knew the club, the players, and I knew him, so that made it that bit easier for me to go back into the job. We want to do it a little bit differently this time if we get to the Championship, so that appeals. I wanted to get back in work as well, that was the main thing. I felt we could really challenge to go up automatically or at least through the play-offs.
We are far better equipped now. We have got a new training ground. The stadium is getting taken down bit by bit and built again. That will take time, but the training ground is probably the best thing we can do as a club, as it lays good foundations for the future.
Darragh has been instrumental in that. It is key to where we want to go. I think if you were to ask anyone, they will tell you that where they work every day is really important. If we can get into the Championship and manage to stay there then I think we can have a bright future.
Can you describe the nature of the role that Barry Fry plays at Peterborough and how the set-up works?
I don't think much has changed from last time. He is the director of football, and he especially just deals with agents. He is the one who will finalise the deals to get people in and out. It stops me having to get involved in that and leaves me more time to do the things I want to do. He works in between the chairman and I.
During his long career Barry was renowned for his colourful language in the dressing room - what approach do you take when giving your own team talks?
You have to cope differently. Sometimes they might need a kick up the backside, sometimes they might need a bit of encouragement. It depends on how you see it at the time. You have got to vary it and be a little bit unpredictable as well. You don't want them to know exactly what you are going to say or do. Yes, I have lost my temper, everyone has, but at the same time I have probably gone in and given them encouragement when they least expected it.
You have just got to see a situation for what it is and then try and analyse it to work out how you are going to get the best out of them. Sometimes it will be a rollicking, and sometimes it won't be. The most important thing is to get to know your players, both as individuals and as a team unit, so you know what they need at the right time.
What approach to you take to motivating players?
The motivation has always been to get into the Championship. Since I have come back they are playing good football and understanding their roles. I just have to make sure they have the right mentality and work in a professional way. I want to be able to enjoy watching them and say "those are my players". They are a good bunch of lads who give their all. I want them to enjoy their training, and they generally do, and they enjoy the way we want to play. Their goal is the same as ours: we want to get out of this league.
Have you adapted your style at all through experience gained since you started coaching and managing?
I think you are always learning. I've only been doing this for five years. I'm still a bit of a baby in those terms, a novice. You've got to learn from your experiences. My first experience at Peterborough was very good, winning back-to-back promotions.
Then I went to Preston and it was a totally different experience. We didn't win many games, and I had to deal a lot more with a change in budget, working with more seasoned pros, things like that. It was a really good experience though, and in a funny sort of way I enjoyed it. I knew I would learn from it.
Did you always plan to go into management?
When I was about 30. I was at Wrexham and I started doing a bit of coaching so that I could be in a better position to go into management. I started doing some coaching with the younger players there and really enjoyed it. You need to your badges and UEFA licence and management courses before you can get into it, but it's all good stuff. It can be hard being back in a classroom sometime, but it's got to be done.
Your father Sir Alex is acknowledged as being very supportive of young managers and offering them advice; in which ways has he been able to help guide you during the early stages of your managerial career?
Well, he's there to speak to. I think he was quite pleased that I wanted to go into management. He just let me get on with it really, but it would be stupid not to ask him for bits of advice. He said just always be honest with your players. It may cause a few arguments, but you've got to be honest. I think that is probably the best advice I took from him.
You played with Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes at United - could you have imagined then that they would enjoy such long and successful careers and serve as in inspiration to today's players?
It doesn't surprise me that much. Giggsy always looked after himself really well, as did Scholesy. They are really good professionals. Perhaps staying at one club for so long helps, but continuously winning trophies and still being able to get in the team and be a big part of it is a fantastic achievement.
At the moment, Giggsy is running games. He is playing in a different position, but one which suits him now. He understands how to play in that more central position, where to stand and where not to so he doesn't have to do as much running around. Scholes has been a fantastic player too. One of the best midfielders the country has seen for a long time. So it doesn't surprise me that much.
When you were a Manchester United player was it like to share the dressing room with such a gifted player as Eric Cantona?
He was a genius. He changed the whole mentality of the players at that club, no doubt about it. The way he trained, prepared and what he did after training. The lads all bought into it massively. He was the one that changed it all. He was a great player, brilliant. Someone that really mattered. I think he scored five winning goals in five games when United won the league one season. He was a really good player in the big games.
Darren Ferguson was speaking to Yahoo!'s 'The Dugout' through its partnership with the League Managers Association