Norwich City’s Ryan Bennett pays tribute to Peterborough United boss Darren Ferguson
Ryan Bennett would love nothing better than to prove Peterborough boss Darren Ferguson right by helping dump Posh out of the FA Cup today at London Road.
Ferguson took a �500,000 punt on the 22-year-old after spotting the raw potential at Grimsby before Bennett blossomed under Ferguson's tutelage to seal a multi-million move to Carrow Road 12 months ago.
Bennett has a natural affinity with the London Road club ahead of his first competitive return this afternoon, but the emotional ties are with his mentor.
'I thank everybody at the club but the main one for me was the manager,' he said. 'As a club, it was just another club, but maybe the manager at the moment, Darren Ferguson, I owe more to him than I do to the club. Before he came back there was talk of me leaving because the previous manager didn't really fancy me. That's football. It's about opinions and his opinion of me was quite high and I'll thank him for that until the day I retire.
'He was the one who signed me and gave me the opportunity to step up from League Two into the Championship. Working with him taught me a lot as far as being professional as a person. It opened my eyes a lot to see how hard you needed to work to get where you wanted to be. He left, different managers came in and things didn't really go my way but he came back in, showed faith in me again, same as he did when he bought me and it turned out to be one of the most successful times I've had in my career so far.'
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Ferguson junior has inevitably had to forge a managerial path in the vast shadow cast by his father's achievements with Aberdeen and Manchester United, but Bennett insists the Peterborough chief is more than capable of operating at the highest level in his own right.
'Definitely. He's had chances to go, at Preston it perhaps didn't go his way, but the job he does at Peterborough with the size of the crowds, with the budget they have, he does very well,' he said.
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'He picks young lads out and develops them and I'm sure it's something every big club would want. I played for him for two years and I heard him mention his Dad's name once, and that was only because he was at the game that day, and they played Leeds the week that we played them.
'That's the only time he ever mentioned him. He's very much his own man with his own ideas. He has his own coaching staff. He doesn't bring a lot of players in or have a lot of players from his Dad. He plays it his own way.'
Bennett knows better than most the earthier confines of London Road offer the perfect backdrop for a potential FA Cup giant-killing if the Canaries are not at the races.
'It's a bit of a derby really and I know there had been 12,000 tickets sold already, and that's quite high for Peterborough, albeit 5,000 are from Norwich, so the reception for both teams should be really good. It should be a great atmosphere and a joy to play in,' he said.
'I've been in that position almost every year in my career – going to try to beat the team that's above us. We've come close, we played Sunderland last year and it was a close game that we lost 2-0. They will come at us and want to attack us. They won't sit back and see what happens. If we play well, we should have enough about us to get a positive result.'
Bennett's trawl through the lower leagues during the embryonic phase of his career has imbued a special affection for the FA Cup.
'It's a bit different for me,' he said. 'When I've been with clubs previously it's been in the lower leagues, League Two when I was at Grimsby, and then at Peterborough. We beat Carlisle when I was at Grimsby, which was quite a big result, but looking back at that now it doesn't sound a big result but at the time, being 17, I had my brother there and I couldn't believe it.
'We've only been in the early stages, round one and round two, and when you come in at round three the stakes are higher. In round three you were always hoping to draw a big team, but this time we are the big team. It's going to be a hard game but it's very important for teams to get as far as they can in the FA Cup and that's what we'll try to do.'
The England U21 international insists playing his part in helping the Canaries reach the fourth round will outweigh any feelings of sentiment back on familiar territory.
'It's another game,' he said. 'It's going to be normal for me, my old surroundings, everything I'm going to be used to, going back and seeing things I used to see. In that sense it will be nice but I'll just try to treat it as another game and get the result we want. I haven't spoken to any of them about it because they've been busy with what they're doing and we've been busy here. I might ring a few up and have a few words but it should be good fun.
'They're on a good run. They've beaten teams at the top of the league, not just the bottom. They had a good result against Barnsley, who are in and around them. Playing there for so long, I know how they play. They are going to have results like that. They play in a way that's really attacking and they go for everything.'