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Fan Focus: Posh Patter Ahead Of Peterborough's Visit

For this week's Fan Focus we talk to Peterborough United fan John Verrall to give us the lowdown on the Posh ahead of tonight's game.

Ben Hoskins

How was the summer for Peterborough? Happy enough?

John Verrall: It was fairly quiet, which is exactly what we wanted. We were relegated last season with a record points total (54) that any team has gone down from the Championship on, after a start where we lost 14 of our first 18 games, so we knew the team that we had were perfectly capable of competing in the league below.

We did lose Dwight Gayle, which was a blow, but the signing of Britt Assombalonga has compensated for that, as has the £6 million transfer fee that we got for him. Jack Payne also re-joined after impressing on loan last season.

Other than that we managed to keep hold of Lee Tomlin, Tommy Rowe and Gabby Zakuani - who have all hinted that they feel they could play a higher level - so, we're well equipped for a promotion campaign at League One level.

Dwight Gayle looks the business in the Premier League but I'm hearing a lot of good things about Britt Assombalonga. Will he be the next big thing, and can the Posh hold on to him?

JV: He certainly looks like he could be the next in a long line of strikers in recent times to go on to better things after being unearthed and developed by Posh.

The strikers that have made successes of themselves - Aaron McLean, Craig Mackail-Smith and Dwight Gayle - all have a similar style of play, in terms of being quick, powerful and hard-working and immediately it was clear Assombalonga was of the same mould to those that have come before him.

He loves playing on the shoulder of the last defender and already seems to have developed in his short time here, especially in terms of his off-the-ball movement (something which was also noticeable in Gayle's time at the club). He has seven goals in his first nine games and I would be very surprised if he doesn't manage to score at least 25 goals this season. He is a special talent.

I expect he will move on to better things - realistically, he's already more talented and skilful than a player that should be playing for Peterborough United (in terms of the stature and size of the club) - yet Assombalonga seems relatively level-headed and has already spoke at how much he is enjoying his time at London Road. He'll certainly stay until the end of this season and I would like to think he'll be here next season too, if we manage to get promoted.

Things seem to be going well on the pitch, are we still happy enough with Darren Ferguson?

JV: I'm delighted with Ferguson as manager. I don't think he gets anywhere near as much praise as he should from outsiders for the job he has done at Peterborough United.

Him and Darragh MacAnthony, the club chairman, have transformed a club that were languishing in League Two to one that is considered a title-favourite in League One.

Despite a poor time at Preston and a relegation last season, his ethos has never changed and he has instilled a style of attacking football that Peterborough are now famed for.

We are playing some of the best football that Posh fans have ever seen and Ferguson should take major credit for that and developing a number of players that are now playing Premier League football - such as the aforementioned Gayle, Ryan Bennett and George Boyd.

How do you feel (if they have) Peterborough have progressed since we met in the cup the other year?

JV: We were awful on that day, but we had a very strong squad that day. When you look at the players that started against you that day six either play in the Premier League or the Championship, whilst four still remain at the club.

I don't think there is too much difference between that side and the team that will be on display on Tuesday, in terms of quality, but the last time we played we were at the start of an awful run - where we only won three games from January until the end of the season - whereas this time we're full of confidence, so we should put up a much better fight.

As an outsider and relative neutral, what's your view on Paolo Di Canio?

JV: I felt when you appointed him that it would either be a stroke of genius or a disaster. At the minute, I'm starting to feel that it's going to turn into the latter.

A high player turnover was a feature of Di Canio's management at Swindon and the reported dressing room unrest there was a little disconcerting, although he appeared to do a decent job in terms of their league position from when he started and left.

Those same two problems seem to have been evident during his time at your place so far though and I'm not convinced it's a style of management is suited to the Premier League.

After the busy summer you've had you have to back him now though and give the players time to gel. I hope it works out, but I'm struggling to think that it will.

Who should we be wary of in our clash at the Stadium Of Light?

JV: Lee Tomlin in the best player in our squad and the best player in League One, on his day. He generally thrives against better teams that allow him space to play in. He is the creative fulcrum of the side and he will need to play well if we are to pull off the upset, as he has the ability to trouble most defences in England when he plays well.

Elsewhere I have already spoken of Assombalonga's talents, but his strike partner, Tyrone Barnett, has also been a revelation this season - scoring in every away game this campaign. He is a really powerful striker that is particularly gifted in the air and will be a threat.

Tommy Rowe is also a player that I rate really highly and his work-rate and defensive ability in midfield will be crucial to our success.

Anyone from our side you feel could be a bit too much of a handful for your lot?

JV: Emanuele Giaccherini and Jozy Altidore are two players that I rate really highly and thought would be great signings for the club when they joined in the summer. The former in particular is a real coup and would be able to play for almost any club outside the top six, in my opinion. If those two are playing to the top of their ability then Premier League teams will find it tough going trying to deal with them, so we're certainly going to struggle!

What do you think will be the key to winning the tie?

JV: I know most League One sides would be keen to defend in numbers and soak up pressure when playing against Premier League opposition, but I would rather we concentrate on our strengths and that certainly doesn't lie in defending - even if we are better in that area of our game than we were last time we were at this level.

As such, the key to winning will be how well we attack. We have shown against Reading - where we scored six goals - that we are capable of scoring goals against teams in divisions above us and I genuinely believe there is a chance of an upset, with the current feeling of concern around the Stadium of Light.

...And what's your prediction?

JV: I'm expecting a tight game, but I really feel we can pull off an upset and it's a winnable tie for us. No doubt everybody in Sunderland will be expecting a win and see this as a perfect chance to increase the confidence of the players, but Ferguson and MacAnthony are desperate for a cup-run so they will ensure that we play with a determination. I'll go for a narrow, 2-1, Posh win.