by Tony Leighton
Peterborough United Manager Darren Ferguson dedicated his team's npower League 1 Play-Off final victory over Huddersfield Town to his father Sir Alex.
Less than 24 hours after Ferguson senior's Manchester United had lost to Barcelona in the Champions League final at Wembley, the Posh boss had "the best day I've had in my career" at the home of United, Old Trafford.
"It was a big day for me," said Ferguson junior, "because after last night and my dad losing I wanted this win to put a smile back on his face. I've spoken to him and I've done that, so I'm pleased and he's delighted."
Sir Alex was not at the Play-Off final to watch his son's team beat Huddersfield 3-0 through late goals by Tommy Rowe, Craig Mackail-Smith and Grant McCann.
But the explanation for the no-show was a simple one. "He's a jinx!" said the happy Peterborough Manager. "He came to the first leg (of the Play-Off semi-final) at Milton Keynes and we got beat, but he stayed away from the second leg and so we decided he should stay away (from the final).
"This is the best day I've had in my career, both as a player and as a Manager. Everyone tells you it's the best way to get promoted (via the Play-Offs). At times you think 'I'm not too sure,' but they're absolutely right - it's a fantastic day."
A fantastic day for Ferguson was a nightmare occasion for Huddersfield Manager Lee Clark, whose team had entered the Play-Offs on the back of a 27-match unbeaten League run and finished the regular season two places and eight points above Posh.
After an evenly contested and at time attritional first half at Old Trafford the Terriers controlled the second period until Peterborough's three goals came in a frantic eight-minute spell towards the end of the match.
"It was a crazy eight minutes," said a shell-shocked Clark. "For half an hour in the second half we were the dominant team and it looked like if anyone was going to score it would be us, but it wasn't to be.
"The scoreline was harsh on us, though - people will look at 3-0 and think that it was a one-sided game, but it certainly wasn't that.
"I'm hurting and I feel for the players, but they don't have to feel ashamed for anything that's happened this season. We haven't achieved our goal, but we've had an unbelievable season and I know we'll bounce back."
For Huddersfield it was a second successive Play-Offs failure, but for Peterborough it was a third promotion in four seasons as Ferguson - four months after returning to London Road after his short tenure at Preston North End was ended in dismissal - regained the magic touch that had marked his first spell in charge of Posh.
The one cloud on his happy horizon is that he is almost certain to lose striker Mackail-Smith, whose Old Trafford goal was his 35th of the season, to a bigger club.
Premier League-bound Queens Park Rangers and Norwich City are reportedly interested in the prolific scorer and Ferguson said: "He's given us everything and if he leaves we'll wish him all the best and thank him for his time here.
"He deserves a chance to play in the Premiership because of all the effort he's put in, and if he has to leave I hope he does get that chance."
With or without Mackail-Smith next season, Ferguson will be aiming for a better campaign than the one endured by Posh when they climbed up to the Championship in 2009 and were then relegated 12 months later.
"Last time was difficult," said the Manager, but we were naïve, we have to admit that. As a club though, we're better equipped this time.
"We need other players and we know the areas we feel we've got to strengthen, but there are players within the squad who'll cope fine.
"Last time we thought that if we survive in the Championship so be it, but this time we've got to establish ourselves - and if we can do that we'll have done a good job."
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