July 27, 2012 Interviews

ESP’s Susan Saunders gets up close and personal with Posh boss Darragh MacAnthony as she leafs through his new autobiography…

It’s not everyday you get to experience the charm of the Irish/rub shoulders with an Irish entrepreneur but that’s certainly what I experienced when I took a wander down to Waterstone’s, Peterborough to meet Peterborough United Chairman and multimillionaire entrepreneur, Darragh MacAnthony.

Darragh’s book From Hobby To Obsession has outsold its competition – namely ‘mummy porn’ success story Fifty Shades Of Grey, becoming the top seller.

His book signing at the Bridge Street store saw hundreds of fans queue up for a copy eager to read the inside track from the Posh’s intriguing main man.

Avid Posh fan, Stuart Towell 23, from Bourne was one of the hundreds getting his booked signed and told me – “Darragh’s a genuine guy in the book and in person. I’m not normally a big book reader but I bought the book yesterday and I’m half way through it already! I have a new found respect for him.”

I try not to make up my mind about people without meeting them myself; however, somehow Darragh MacAnthony wasn’t what I was expecting at all and he’s well aware of what his image can be perceived as.

“Some people would perceive me as arrogant, ruthless, cocky and if you read Google, you might see some bad things that some trolls have written about the property business, however when people meet me they think I’m charming, charismatic, fun and driven.”

I didn’t know if it was the Irish accent, his jovial nature or his twinkly blue eyes that had my attention but overall it was a very enjoyable interview.

So Posh fans read on, here’s my Q&A…

What prompted you to buy a football club?

“I was on a timeline – I wanted to buy a football club that summer. I’d done a deal for two other clubs, the deals had fallen apart and I got a call at the last minute to say that Barry Fry needed money so I saw an opportunity here. I flew in and met them, liked what I saw, loved the ground and basically wanted the club. Not forgetting the fans – but at this point I didn’t know the fans, but they’re great. I’ve had a lot of support from them over the years.

“With the deal though, it felt right, the deal was right and the deal was done. That’s what I’m like though, I see something that I want and I want to go and get it. Like a child at Christmas. It’s just the way I am – some people say it’s OTT but you know we all have our quirks.

“It’s a thrill ride, it’s enjoyable. I’m very fortunate to own a football club, many fans would love to be in this position – I can’t complain.”

Are you rivalling Fifty Shades of Grey here?

“Apparently I am. We’re outselling the sex here! I’m a big fan of Fifty Shades of Grey but this is definitely better.

Is there any sex in this book?

“Not in this one but there will be in the next one, there will be a lot of sex. That will cover my life – this one is just about football. The next will be about real estate and a lot of that – the next will be a bit juicier. There are a few ‘f’ words in here. I won’t apologise for cursing as that’s who I am at times, unfortunately, I have a filthy mouth.

“It worked for Mr Grey.”

What type of car do you drive?

“Depends which country. In this country I have a Mercedes driven by chief of transportation, Robert and in the States, I have a few cars but my favourite is my Bentley – my favourite in the world. I’ve driven a few cars and written a few off – I’m a car fan and I’ve had a lot of fun in them… and on the bonnets of them [he said with a glint in his eye!] You know, 50 shades of vehicles!”

What are your ambitions in football?

“To make a name for us – be very respected in the leagues that we’re in whether Championship or Champions League. To be a football club which has between 13,000 and 15,000 fans attend every week and build from there. Have a nice new modern stadium, whether that is in the club where we are and refurbished or a brand new one. To hand the club to my son when he’s 25 [who wouldn’t like a gift like that] and say ‘now it’s your turn’.”

What are your predictions for next season?

“Not making any predictions at the moment for next season. When we’ve got our full squad and we’re in pre-season, I will let people know what we expect for next season. We’re not getting carried away, it’s one of the toughest leagues in the world, and we’ve got to be respectful of it. The main thing I want us to do is play nice football again and get away from that whole perception of ‘they’re punching above their weight’ or ‘always favourites for relegation’ – I just want people to look at us as a football club and say ‘yeah they’re a good club’.”

Are there any players you have your eye on for next season?

“We’ve always got our eye on a few players. I wouldn’t name names because we decided on a transfer blackout but we’ve got a few targets in mind and there’ll be more recruits before the end of the window.”

Can you clarify rumours on Darren Ferguson being linked to Notts Forrest?

“He’s one of the best young Managers in the game. It’s flattering that a club like Forrest, European Cup winners and now they have some wealthy people behind them and now they want Darren Ferguson. He doesn’t want to go to Notts Forrest.

Heard about another business venture you’ve got, MacAnthony Media?

“Yep – the future of media!”

What do you hope to achieve with that?

“Make lots of money is the honest assessment. Also produce good material, good books, like what I’m doing now and bring out a magazine and newspaper. We’re in talks to acquire other media companies that have publications so the sky’s the limit. We’ve put a lot of energy into this, great ideas and a good right hand man, who’s about to go on holiday for a month! We’re going into it with eyes wide open and try to be a little bit more passionate than some of the current people in the media. We want to make sure that the content’s really important, exciting riveting and what people want.”

Get your copy of From Hobby To Obsession at Waterstone’s on Bridge Street in Peterborough priced £14.99, also available on Kindle.

Photos: Chris Brudenell for ESP Magazine not to be reproduced without permission.