Following a disappointing season by Peterborough United's expectations, pre-season ahead of the 2014-15 campaign has gone very much to plan. The players and staff headed out to Portugal for a week-long training camp following a friendly victory away to Barnet, whilst also beating local Portuguese side AS Freamunde 4-2. The new arrivals have settled in well, with the 'up and coming' young talents impressing boss Darren Ferguson, whilst maintaining an unbeaten run throughout pre-season, as of writing ahead of their final friendly against Luton Town.
Ferguson has openly express his disappointment at last season, with the club's only success being crowned Johnstone's Paint Trophy champions. He has referred to the exit of long-term Posh players as removing the 'dead wood', whilst he also believes the young talents with potential are going to be key to Peterborough's promotion ambitions. The Scot signed a new three-year deal with the club over the summer and got the backing of chairman Darragh MacAnthony following a tough season. Ferguson has made it clear during pre-season that this year will be his youth players chance to establish themselves in the first team, with Jermaine Anderson and Tom Conlon expected to impress.
This flourishing pair are just two of a number who are expected to get their chances this season, hopefully in preparation of competing in the Championship the following campaign. 18-year-old pair Jermaine Anderson and Tom Conlon are two midfielders who face a big season ahead, with the former anticipating to make 25 to 30 appearances throughout the campaign. If they can follow in the footsteps of fellow youth graduate and South Africa international Kgosi Ntlhe, 20, then they will find themselves with a very bright future indeed. Ntlhe has secured the left-back position ahead of the new season, and would have sustained his position regularly last season if it was not for injury - also having been linked with Manchester United in recent seasons.
A summer signing spree saw winger Jon Taylor join from newly-relegated Shrewsbury Town, whilst another starlet of non-league, Erhun Oztumer signed from Dulwich Hamlet. These signings were quickly followed by Kenny McEvoy on-loan from Tottenham Hotspur, whilst Ben Alnwick abruptly turned around a move to Blackpool to join the Posh instead. However, the best signings in posh fans' eyes is the reuniting of Gabriel Zakuani, following a brief and successful six month spell in the Greek Super League with Kalloni FC.
Taylor offers pace, skill and goals predominantly from wide areas and will help with Ferguson's desire to play with more width this season. Whilst the 'Turkish Messi' as he has been dubbed will play the typical number ten role, and need anymore be said about what to expect from him, having scored 33 goals last season. Along with 'Messi' comes in Gareth Bale or Kenny McEvoy as he is officially known. The Irish Bale look-alike is just 19 but offers the same qualities as his double, with pace, skill and great attacking intent. Meanwhile, Alnwick joins Peterborough looking for a permanent role, having spent time in the Premier League with Sunderland and Tottenham. He now looks to settle for regular first team football and has already put in first class displays in pre-season. Zakuani will however, be the reliable individual week-in week-out who commits to every challenge, solid defending, aerial threat at both ends of the field and most importantly a leader.
If the new signings live up to their potential, with the likes of Taylor, Oztumer and McEvoy onboard then expect a very good season from the London Road outfit. Having been unlucky to miss out in the semi-finals of the play-offs last season. Expect the blues to aim further with automatic promotion or to win the league. Ferguson's desire to play with more width this season will bolster Posh's attacking style of play, whilst Ben Alnwick is a solid signing at the back who should assist Peterborough's leaky defence.
There are many attacking talents who will light up League One next season, the duo of Conor Washington and Britt Assombalonga will torment defences all season long, whilst the ability of the wide men and Oztumer in the number 10 role with be further problems. However, it is hard to look beyond Assombalonga as the star player. His pace, strength, wide variety of goals and the fact he is only 21 and entering into just his third full season of first team football means he will only get better.
If Britt can bag 30 plus goals next season then automatic promotion could well be on the cards. However, winning the league may be too much of a big ask with Sheffield United early favourites following their promising conclusion to last season. At worst Posh should expect to gain promotion via the play-offs, but to be sure on one thing is that there will be plenty of goals at both ends in London Road this season.
Article by Liam CHAMBERS
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