Hard work pays off for Peterborough United defender Ryan Bennett

By Peter SwanBBC Radio Cambridgeshire Sport
Ryan Bennett
Bennett has been an ever present in defence for Posh so far this season

Defender Ryan Bennett has become the latest Peterborough United player to be handed an England Under-21 call-up.

He has been an ever present in central defence so far this season, helping Darren Ferguson's side to four wins from their opening nine matches.

However, since joining the Posh in October 2009, Bennett has been forced to work hard for his success.

Posh had been tracking the former Ipswich academy product for some time before they finally agreed a club record deal with Grimsby Town.

He made his debut in what turned out to be Ferguson's final game of his first spell in charge, a 3-1 defeat at Newcastle.

"Darren Ferguson's departure was a worry, because he brought me here and I thought he would be here for a while," Bennett noted some time later.

"I was looking forward to working with Darren and so to lose him was a big thing."

Bennett went on to make 23 appearances, scoring one goal, as Posh were relegated from the Championship with just 34 points, having used four different managers in the process.

Few players came out of the season with much credit. A low point for Bennett saw him concede a penalty and receive a red card in the first half of a 3-0 defeat by Derby, with Posh already down to 10 men.

He sat out the final part of the campaign with an ankle problem, and injuries continued to trouble him over the first half of the following season.

Despite his youth, some fans were beginning to become frustrated with his sometimes inconsistent play.

Under Gary Johnson, Posh made a decent stab at sticking with the promotion contenders in League One, but their defensive record was a cause for concern.

Bennett played in two of the season's heaviest defeats, a 5-1 home mauling by Charlton and a 3-0 loss against Brighton.

Ryan Bennett
Bennett gets animated during the League One play-offs

However the return of two key figures was to prove decisive both for the Posh and for Bennett.

Darren Ferguson came back to the club in January after being sacked at Preston, and a few weeks later Gabby Zakuani was finally back to full fitness after almost a year of niggling complaints.

Zakuani and Bennett became Ferguson's preferred central defensive pairing and kept eight clean sheets in 18 matches together on the way to the League One play-off final.

Zakuani's never-say-die attitude proved the perfect compliment to Bennett's more cultured playing style.

"I had not really had a run in the side, I played in the Championship and then got injured. I'd only played with Gabs a couple of times," Bennett said.

He topped off promotion by being named as the club's young player of the year and the new season of Championship football has started much as last season in League One ended.

Bennett signed a new four-year deal over the summer and has now seen his performances crowned with an England U21 call-up.

At just 21, Bennett has already been forced to work hard for his rewards, but he certainly seems to be heading in the right direction.

"Ryan has had a fantastic start to the season and we're all delighted with the way he's been playing," Ferguson said.

"He'll go all the way, there's no doubt about that. He can play in the Premier League and maybe even become a full international."