Due to the final stages of londonroad.net‘s shiny new upgrade taking a while to complete, this blog has been out of action for the past 10 days. So as well as quality content such as ‘who the hell are…?’ and our run down of modern day Posh strikers, my scheduled match report for the clash with AFC Wimbledon never was published. If it had been, one word would have covered it: shit. Despite one point being picked up, it was a turgid performance which left London Road feeling flat. This was definitely not the first terrible performance by Grant McCann’s side, but it will certainly be the last. 30 hours after Saturday’s final whistle, a statement was released by the club to confirm they had ‘parted ways’ with their manager, to the surprise of many fans out there. Never will you see such a respectful press release, with chairman Darragh MacAnthony and Barry Fry both singing his praises as they let the 37 year old go. But how did it come to this?
Grant McCann will be the first to admit that 22 months ago, he was a very lucky man. A man with no managerial experience beyond 4 games as a caretaker, and who also happened to be a part of two (at times, hilariously) bad regimes at the club was handed a 4 year contract to build a dynasty in North Cambridgeshire. His chairman was confident in his ability to deliver a first promotion in 6 years, and claimed the new manager was such a hot property that his contract had a £3m release clause inserted. Whilst there was a general positivity towards Grant from the fanbase, and a real will for him to do well, most of that was down to his on the field performances for Posh. But, as the now ex-Posh manager can tell you, management is a whole different ball game to being really, really good at free kicks.
Grant was backed well in the transfer market. Whilst the fees paid have not been extortionate, they have been sizeable for a League One club who have not made a major sale in 2 years. McCann had freedom to overhaul the squad: the only players who were part of the squad on Grant’s first and last day in the job are Jack Baldwin, Chris Forrester, Marcus Maddison, Jermaine Anderson and Leo Da Silva Lopes; this was a squad that McCann (apparently) had put his stamp on. The majority of his transfers just haven’t come off, it must be said; Ricky Miller, Hayden White, Jerome Binnom-Williams, Brad Inman and Paul Taylor all had shorter spells here than McCann did as manager. The jury is still out on the likes of Michael Doughty, Idris Kanu, Joe Ward and George Cooper, meaning only a minority of signings can be classed as successful in the past two years. He also had countless loan signings that ranged from bizarre to total crap.
As well as the signings being plentiful, Grant was afforded a luxury that neither Graham Westley nor Dave Robertson were: he was allowed to appoint an assistant manager of his choice. That man was a friend from a UEFA coaching course, Lee Glover (someone I really, really wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley). However, when cracks started to appear in the McCann regime approximately 12 months ago, and it became clear promotion wouldn’t be achieved in 2017, Glover was the sacrificial lamb. He parted company with the club claiming that a change of personnel was needed. It’s no secret that that decision was made above the manager’s head, as was the appointment of (temporary) successor David Oldfield. McCann probably was unhappy at the dismissal of his right hand man, but given his lack of experience and achievements as a boss, he had little room to argue. This was the first real sign that McCann was not meeting expectations.
Now, we really need to talk about Grant’s tactics and team selections. He promised exciting, attacking football. He delivered the opposite. I’ve seen glaciers more free flowing than McCann’s men, and in a low blow that I’m reluctant to make, Graham ‘hit the fucking channels’ Westley promoted a better style of football. The perseverance with short goal kicks do not make up for the fact that the main tactic employed in McCann’s tenure was a hopeful 60 yard punt forward. This emphatically failed on too many occasions. In his first season as a gaffer, he stubbornly stuck to a midfield diamond that was fantastic when working well, but incredibly easy for opponents to nullify when they’d done a bit of basic homework. This season, he decided that a 3 man defence would be better for his side, with Da Silva Lopes and Gwion Edwards tasked with playing at wingback for some reason. For a while it worked, Posh looked comfortable as a memorable 4-1 win in the sun at Northampton sent us top with a 100% record intact at the end of August. Then it started to unravel. By mid-September, a 4-4-2 was already in use, then a 3-4-1-2, then 4-4-2 again. There’s a fine line between being tactically flexible and overcomplicating things. McCann overstepped this line massively. To accommodate this tinkering, bizarre personnel changes came about on the pitch. We’ve seen Lopes, Edwards, Liam Shephard, Andrew Hughes, Joe Ward and Danny Lloyd at wingback, Jack Baldwin at right back, Marcus Maddison up front, Junior Morias in midfield… The list goes on. The final nail in McCann’s coffin was his championing of pricey new signings Cooper, Ward, and Omar Bogle, and subsequent decision to leave them permanently on the bench, whilst other unsuitable players made the eleven.
Some strange things also came out of McCann’s mouth. 2 weeks before Grant’s contract was shredded, he cited the use of GPS tracking as the reason for withdrawing the excellent Joe Ward against Scunthorpe. He also claimed Posh were on a good run in 2018, on account of only losing twice – an interesting way to spin his team’s incredible ability to steal a draw from the jaws of victory. Victory had only been achieved twice since Christmas day. Coupled with the dire performances this decision was somewhat inevitable.
An outsider looking in may say McCann was treated poorly; we find ourselves 6 points away from the playoffs, and that could easily have been made up with a bit of luck. In truth, those 6 points were like a chasm. Posh were playing without fire in their belly, and no amount of tactical tinkering nor excuse in the media could alter that. A change was inevitable, and I am of the belief that Darragh MacAnthony has made the correct choice here. McCann has shown nothing to make me think his period of unemployment as a manager will be a short one either. He joins the likes of Alan Shearer and Gary Neville who can be considered very good players who became poor managers.
Thanks for trying Grant. You gave it your all, you even slept at the training ground once. It just didn’t work out for you.