Especially now with pre-season about to kick in to gear, On The Ponty End has been speaking to some of the clubs making an appearance in the Championship this year - either as a result of promotion or relegation last season.

Our aim is to provide you with just a small insight in to the expectations and inside track on the fresh opposition that Barnsley FC will face this season. With that in mind, we hope we succeed.

We're delighted to introduce our readers to Peterborough United fan Aaron Gratton who is presently studying journalism and is hoping to make it as a sport journalist. This coming season will be his fifth year as a season ticket holder at "The Posh" and is also a regular writer for the football site It’s Round and It’s White.

You can also follow Aaron on Twitter: @azygratton24

Hello Barnsley FC fans, I have been asked to provide you with some insight into my club which was founded in 1934 as Peterborough United, known to many quite simply as The Posh. A small club achieving big things is a line that has been used many times in the last few years at London Road and with three promotions (and one relegation) in the last four seasons it’s easy to see why.

Peterborough United F.C.Image via Wikipedia
Since the chairman Darragh MacAnthony took over after seeing the club in Sky One’s documentary "Big Ron Manager", the club has moved from strength to strength. Posh have formed a reputation of being willing to give young talent the chance to prove themselves, most notably giving the likes of George Boyd, Aaron Mclean and Craig Mackail-Smith the chance to prove themselves in the Football League after picking them up from non-league outfits.

This philosophy doesn’t stop with the players, after the departure of the late Keith Alexander; MacAnthony took a gamble and give the manager’s job to the unproven Darren Ferguson. Ferguson’s hunger and determination to prove himself persuaded MacAnthony that he was the man for the job, not mentioning his legendary father once in the interview process.

This brings me to this season just gone. We started the season under Gary Johnson, who never really gained full support of the fans. Although Posh had been in and around the Play-Off places, performances weren’t up to scratch and Johnson was soon replaced by the returning Darren Ferguson. This was unquestionably the main reason for the late surge in the second half of the season the secured a fourth place finish. Skipper Grant McCann (Ed: ex- Barnsley FC) revelled in the new position that Ferguson gave him, being given much more freedom in the centre of the pitch than he was allowed under Johnson.
Towards the end of the season, a young left midfielder was given the chance in the first team by the name of Joe Newell, who has come through the Centre of Excellence (previous graduates include Matthew Etherington and Simon Davies). Newell made a great impression in the few games he was played in and looks to be a great prospect for the future. His best moment came in the 5-0 win against Dagenham and Redbridge where he supplied the ball into the box that looked like a left-footed David Beckham put in.

We went into the Play-Off’s optimistic but not as favourites, that title belonged to Huddersfield. The first task was to dispose of fierce rivals MK Dons, after struggling in the first leg losing 3-2, Posh booked their place with a (nail-biting) 2-0 win at home. This is easily my favourite moment at London Road, I took my best mate with me, who was a casual fan at best, into the London Road End to see one of the all time greatest performances by the boys in blue.

A tackle made by James Wesolowski to deny Dons what would have been an almost certain goal will go down in London Road folk law. Had it have been miss-timed by even a fraction of a second, he would have certainly seen red.

Then came the day we went to play at Old Trafford against Huddersfield, who on the day outnumbered us Posh fans by bringing more than twice as many fans (that you couldn’t hear).

My mate, who came with me to the second leg win against MK Dons, came to the final along with my dad. It was simply, the greatest day of my life, even if a Huddersfield fan threw his scarf at our car on the way home calling me a not too flattering name (it rhymed with winker).

The stars of the show were Tommy Rowe, who has undoubtedly enjoyed his finest season yet with us and the star man Craig Mackail-Smith who is going on to bigger and better things.

3-0, three goals in the space of seven magical minutes took us back up to the Championship. All Posh fans are still revelling in the Play-Off win and looking forward to a season back in the second tier.

Gabriel Zakuani became even more of a fan favourite than he already was, if that was at all possible, playing through the pain barrier in the second leg and final after dislocating his shoulder in the first leg. Zakuani is a no nonsense, old-fashioned centre back. He played his best (and most important) games in the Play-Off’s and has since been rewarded with a new three year deal. When partnered alongside Ryan Bennett in the centre of defence, Posh are pretty solid at the back.

So that brings me to this coming season. All of us who support the Posh have seen it all, when Barry Fry’s been at your club for donkey’s years what do you expect? We come into this season being modest about what we can do, if you offered us 21st right now we would snap your hand off! Not to say we aren’t confident about the season, we are desperate to survive and to give a much better account of ourselves than we did a couple of years ago.

As I said earlier, Mackail-Smith is leaving for bigger and better things with the blessing of all the fans that love and respect him and everything he has done for the club since arriving. It would also be of no surprise to see Joe Lewis leave, he may have to if he wants regular first team football after the performances of Paul Jones during Lewis’s absence in the Play-Off’s.

Originally Paul Jones had been on loan from Exeter, but now he has signed on an initial one year deal. Posh were lucky to keep Jones after he reportedly attracted interested for a number of clubs, one of them supposedly Barnsley.

A couple of players that I expect to shine in the Championship are Lee Tomlin, signed just before the end of last summer’s transfer and somewhat under the radar before making a big impact. Tomlin is a strong, bulky striker that isn’t afraid to get stuck in, this naturally endears him to the fans. Not to say he can’t find the target, he finds that on a regular basis. Another player who I think will shine
this coming year is Tommy Rowe who I have already sang the praises of, and I’m going to sing them again. To me personally, he was the player that was always in the starting line-up but you never really noticed. That all changed after Tommy demonstrated just why he has always been trusted with a starting place.

As a Posh fan, it will also be interesting to see how George Boyd fairs in the Championship, considering what transpired a couple of years ago. Boyd was loaned to Nottingham Forest towards the end of the season with a view to a permanent deal, however, he found himself mainly as an un-used sub and to many Posh fans surprise, came back down to League One with us. For Boyd, this season is a chance to prove that he is good enough to play at this level and I’m sure he’ll be looking forward to the festive season that little bit more with a trip to Forest on Boxing Day.

Be warned, by the time you come to visit us, the away terrace (Moy’s End) will be torn down and construction will have been a couple of months underway (hopefully anyway). This means that all visiting fans will be placed in the far end of the north stand.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my club and may have even learned a thing or two. I look forward to 3rd December when you come to play us at London Road.

Your Goalkeeper Luke Steele is still held in high regard amongst Posh fans and will get a big cheer when his name’s called out.

Apart from the two times we play this season, I wish you the best of luck this coming season!

Ed: Thanks Aaron for your contribution to On The Ponty End - it's greatly appreciation. Good luck with your ambitions!

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Ian Wilkinson

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