12 November 2009 ~ The opening day of the Championship season saw Darren Ferguson’s Peterborough United travel to Nigel Clough’s Derby County. This led the BBC’s new Football League show running a gushing feature on Clough v Ferguson, the next generation, complete with footage of the managers’ dads, Brian Clough and Sir Alex Ferguson, prowling the touchlines in trademark fashion. But following in the footsteps of their famous fathers has proved more problematic than either manager might have anticipated.
With eight defeats in their last 12 games, Derby sit just three points above the relegation zone, while Ferguson Jnr’s three-year reign at Peterborough came to an end earlier this week following a 3-1 defeat at Newcastle, a result which cemented their place at the bottom of the pile.
It was all so different three months ago. "We've got the best young manager in the country," claimed Posh chairman Darragh McAnthony after rebuffing a summer approach from Reading for Ferguson. A record of just two wins in 16 League games this term has been enough to change the Irish property magnate’s mind. Ferguson can perhaps count himself a little unfortunate to be looking for new employment, having secured automatic promotion in both his first two years in charge, guiding Peterborough from the depths of League Two to the Championship in the process.
However, he has spent a lot of McAnthony’s cash along the way, mainly on up and coming players from the lower divisions and non-League, and their lack of experience of English football’s second tier has been glaringly obvious this season. When he inevitably lands another job it will be interesting to see whether he truly has inherited many of Sir Alex’s skills or is merely a cheque-book manager who happened to be in the right place at the right time.
Clough continues to soldier on with the Rams, who claimed their first win in five League games last Friday when they beat fellow strugglers Coventry City 2-1 at Pride Park. After joining from Burton Albion, whom he had led to the verge of promotion to the Football League, last January, young Nigel made a good early impact, guiding his side up the table with a string of victories, including two over another of his dad’s old clubs, Nottingham Forest. However, once the new manager bounce wore off, the Rams began to slide back down the table and only secured safety on the penultimate day of the season. A few murmurs of discontent have already started to crop up on the fans forums, but Derby supporters would do well to bear in mind that their manager’s success at Burton was achieved by gradual improvement rather than instant results. Clough had better hope his chairman shows more patience than McAnthony. Matthew Gooding