Names of the Nineties: Duncan Ferguson

Paul McParlan   13/09/2019 81comments  |  Jump to last
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By the summer of 1994, at the age of 23, Duncan Ferguson appeared to have reached something of a crossroads in his career. Heralded as one of Scotland’s brightest young prospects, Ferguson drove his manager at Dundee United, Jim McLean, to distraction with his apparent lack of dedication. “I can’t keep him out of trouble,” he bemoaned regularly as Duncan became involved in some unsavoury altercations which necessitated regular appearances before the judiciary. The forward became a standard feature in the Scottish fanzine, The Absolute Game, whose cartoon covers depicted him as a layabout with a bottle of whisky in hand, appearing in front of a magistrate.

Yet Ferguson’s potential was frightening. In a declining United side, he scored 28 goals in 77 games, prompting Rangers to sign him for a British record fee of £4m in 1993 at the age of just 21. Frustratingly, his career in Glasgow never really took off.

During a league game in 1993, Ferguson appeared to have headbutted John McStay of Raith Rovers, an incident missed by match officials but caught on television. In a worrying precedent, the case was referred by the Strathclyde Police to the courts and he was charged with assault, receiving a three-month prison sentence pending an appeal. Unsurprisingly, his form suffered and he struggled to maintain his place in the side. The Scottish press seemed to derive pleasure in their continual demonising of the young man.

Meanwhile, despite manager Mike Walker’s best attempts, Everton narrowly escaped relegation at the end of the 1993/94 season. The new campaign showed no sign of improvement and the club languished at the bottom, scoring just seven goals in nine Premier League games. The need for a striker was obvious, especially as Walker, in all his wisdom, inexplicably decided to swap the previous season’s top scorer Tony Cottee for West Ham defender David Burrows.

On a fact-finding mission to Rangers to improve income streams, Everton chairman Peter Johnson concluded a loan deal with Rangers for both Ian Durrant and Ferguson to join Everton. Most Blues at the time believed Durrant to be an excellent choice but held deep reservations about Big Dunc. He certainly didn’t endear himself to supporters when he arrived at his unveiling sporting a bright red jacket, with the languid demeanour of a matchday scally. Durrant, however, had got the memo – he wore a blue.

In October 1994, Ferguson made his debut in a 1-0 defeat away to Crystal Palace. He didn’t score in his next four games and Walker was dismissed, allowing him to spend more time on his sunbed. Most Blues had concluded that Ferguson simply didn’t want to be at Everton after his uninspiring performances. Whilst he may have thought that his future lay with Rangers, despite all the positive noises from Ibrox, manager Walter Smith realised that his striker needed to escape from the goldfish bowl to fulfil his potential.

Everton appointed ex-club legend Joe Royle as manager at the start of November. The Toffees were anchored at the foot of the table with one win in 14 games, having accumulated a measly eight points. Relegation seemed a foregone conclusion and Liverpool were to visit Goodison on 24 November. The Gwladys Street faithful resigned themselves to a crushing defeat. If ever a club needed a hero to save their season, it was now.

Royle quickly appreciated what an asset Duncan could be. During training sessions, he noted that Ferguson’s aerial ability could cause defences problems given the right service. For the derby he recalled Andy Hinchcliffe to deliver those precision crosses. The pre-match analysis on Sky confirmed that a Liverpool victory would be the only logical outcome.

Few inside the ground knew that Ferguson was arrested for drink driving just two nights previously. Inexplicably, Everton accommodated him in the Moat House Hotel in the city centre with a multitude of temptations on his doorstep. At the time, a student in my Year 11 class completed her work experience there and regaled me with tales about this “mad Scotsman” who was having parties in his room every night.

He knew that he had let the club down and now needed to produce something exceptional on the pitch. Royle’s tactical changes saw a much-improved performance, although the Scotsman was struggling to impose himself on the game. Royle later admitted that he considered replacing him during the interval.

Just after half time, Neil Ruddock kicked him on the back of the legs “to show him who was boss.” It was like a red rag to a bull as suddenly Ferguson, incandescent with anger, wreaked havoc on the Liverpool defence. On 51 minutes, he rose majestically and bulleted a header just over the bar. Suddenly the crowd sensed an upset.

On 56 minutes, Hinchliffe delivered the perfect corner and Ferguson soared above Ruddock and David James to head the ball into the net and celebrated ecstatically in front of the Gwladys Street. He continued to torment the Reds defence, who simply couldn’t handle him, and with two minutes remaining, his challenge on the jittery James in goal led to Everton’s second from Paul Rideout. As he tried to leave the pitch, he was mobbed by jubilantly joyous Blues. Later that evening, he could be found in Kirkland’s Wine Bar celebrating with delirious Toffees.

Afterwards, Andy Gray stated on Sky: “I’ve said it all night, Duncan Ferguson has been a handful.” Joe Royle concurred: “Duncan went to war.” It was the display that transformed Everton’s season. Ferguson felt appreciated and loved. It was the night when Evertonians hailed a new hero. The club had been in the doldrums far too long, suddenly Big Dunc lifted the gloom.

Everton broke the British transfer record to make his loan signing permanent. The bigger the opposition, the more galvanised Ferguson appeared to be. The club shop was overwhelmed by the demand for Duncan t-shirts, which went flying off the shelves. A competition was held for fans to design a tattoo for him. By the end of the season, Everton avoided the drop and he was the proud owner of an FA Cup winners medal.

In October 1995, he became the first footballer to serve a jail term for on-pitch violence when he served a six-week sentence in the notorious Barlinnie Prison for the McStay incident. The injustice and futility of the draconian sentence rankled many outside of the game. Crucially, Everton succeeded in overturning a further 12-match suspension imposed by the Scottish FA.

Ferguson was touched by the support he received from the club hierarchy and the supporters and, when he returned to Goodison, a crowd of over 11,000 watched him play for the reserves.

Yet, problems of apparent indiscipline continued to plague him throughout his career. He shares the record for the highest number of Premier League red cards with Patrick Vieira, though there is a compelling case that with certain referees his reputation went before him, as demonstrated when Harrow schoolmaster David Ellary dismissed him for using “industrial language”. He also received a written admonishment from the FA after his winning goal against Manchester United in February 1995 for “excessive celebration”.

Ferguson displayed a passion for the club which has been sadly lacking in many of the monied mercenaries who have worn the shirt in recent times. Watching him in derbie – throwing Paul Ince to the ground or throttling Jason McAteer – was an exhilarating experience worth the admission price alone. In the 1990s, he played seven times against Liverpool and was never on the losing side.

The Scot never forgave his FA for their treatment and refused to play for the national team. Nevertheless, there was another side to Ferguson, the pigeon fancier who named one of them “Coisty” after Ally McCoist, his favourite player. He was a regular visitor to Alder Hey children’s hospital, making substantial donations without any publicity. He did his best to reduce crime in his area by hospitalising some unfortunate burglars who broke into this home.

Both Tony Adams and Steve Bruce named him as their most difficult opponent. On Match of the Day in April 1997, Alan Hansen admitted that he would not have been able to cope with him saying that he was “simply unplayable.”

Many never understood the adulation that Ferguson received but during Everton’s darkest days in the 1990s, he offered hope with his majestic displays. He was Everton’s top scorer in a poor side for two consecutive seasons, between 1996 and 1998, which enabled them to escape relegation by the narrowest of margins. His headed hat-trick against Bolton in December 1997 effectively kept Everton up and in turn sent the Trotters down.

Genuine cult heroes are hard to find these days but in a 48-hour period in November 1994, Ferguson was arrested for drink driving, had a girl waiting for him in his hotel room when he was released, scored his first goal for Everton in a derby match in front of the Street End, and spent the evening celebrating with fans in the city centre until the early hours. Needless to say, barring a miracle, we will never see the likes of him again. He’s the player who made watching Everton in the 90s worthwhile.

This article was originally published on These Football Times as part of their Names of the Nineties series and is reproduced here by kind permission of the author.

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Reader Comments (81)

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Frank Sheppard
1 Posted 13/09/2019 at 07:51:40
A legend indeed. Fair to say that as well as being a “handful” and often “unplayable” and being “colourful” off the pitch, he often scored GREAT goals.

I remember being in the River end at Norwich, when a cross came into him from the right wing, I noticed there were only two defenders trying to mark him... I stood up and shouted GOAL before he even headed it. Needless to say it went in, and I was somewhat unpopular!

Steve Ferns
2 Posted 13/09/2019 at 08:35:31
His colourful life off the pitch exacerbated his injury problems. A man truly dedicated to the Everton cause would not have had all of those issues and would have tried everything to get back from injury quicker.

At his best, he was “unplayable” if there was such a thing. Certainly unstoppable in the air. But they were few and far between and if anything showed unfulfilled potential and ultimately a career that never matched the talent.

Not even close to being a legend for me. Nil satis nisi optimum. How often did Duncan give his best?

Danny Broderick
3 Posted 13/09/2019 at 08:59:58
“His headed hat-trick against Bolton in December 1997 effectively kept Everton up and in turn sent the Trotters down.”

A little bit over the top in my opinion.

Duncan was a good player for us. He was unplayable on his day, which was one or two times a season generally. Half of the time though, he wasn’t really bothered.

I think he scored around 70 goals for us in about 10 years, so he’s not a legend in my eyes either. He was definitely a character and gave us something that we needed at the time. But I don’t think he really fulfilled his potential. His movement wasn’t good enough, and he was forever injured or suspended.

He gave us some great moments to look back on, but that was about it for me.

Michael Nisbet
4 Posted 13/09/2019 at 09:52:35
It was that goal Ferguson scored against Liverpool in November 94 which turned me into a Toffee. I was 14 at the time, and looking for an English team to support. I'd supported Aberdeen all my life, but the English Premier League had become popular in Shetland, probably mainly due to SkyTV.

Most people around me had chosen Man Utd, Liverpool or Blackburn. I wasn't sold on any of them. When I saw Ferguson's display against Liverpool, I could help but be drawn to Everton. I have supported the Blues since.

David Ellis
5 Posted 13/09/2019 at 10:02:39
Unplayble - well unplayble in the air at times maybe. But since he rarely headed the ball to a blue shirt (from a long ball played forward to him) then it was easy to allow him the header and then just pick up the loose ball.

In truth Duncan was a very limited striker. Too slow, not great at holding the ball up, not good enough in link up play and didn't have the striker's instinct so didnt score enough goals. Hampered by injury and seemed to only get "up" for the big matches. We should never have bought him back from Newcastle.

Grateful for the goals he scored against Liverpool and Man Utd - but didn't do enough week in week out for me.

Tommy Carter
6 Posted 13/09/2019 at 10:15:05
I certainly hope never to see anyone like him again.

A player who regularly failed to turn up and put a performance in. When the cameras were on and he was playing Man Utd or Liverpool then he would show up. However away from home particularly, his form was atrocious and his attitude just as bad.

This was a player with huge ability, but with a weak mentality. He may have upset Razor Ruddock and Rio Ferdinand on a few occasions. But there were many occasions where he was made to look very average by very average players.

His discipline on the pitch was often terrible. Rather than play aggressively and maximise his physicality in a way that benefits the team, he went looking for trouble.

Andrei Kanchelskis has enough success vs Liverpool as Ferguson in my eyes. And he didn't throttle anybody.

I suppose when you are getting turned over every week then it is partial relief to have the side issue of an individual scrap to keep people entertained and show that the player ‘cares'. A lot of Evertonians seem to have placed a lot of value in this and therefore deem Ferguson a legend when in reality, he is anything but.

Dave Williams
7 Posted 13/09/2019 at 10:46:18
Funny word “legend”. Fans use it far too frequently to describe a merely good player rather than reserve it for the likes of Ball, Young, Southall etc.

Duncan is a legendary figure but not because of his footballing achievements rather more for his notoriety mixed in with some stellar displays and of course his undoubted love for the club.

His spell in Barlinnie which whilst he was guilty of unpleasant violent behaviour was a real case of victimisation and adds to the legend. A rough, hard character from Scotland, in trouble on and off the pitch, unfairly jailed, tales of drinking etc, banned from driving – it's quite a list but you then have a sterile period of poor results and ordinary players and Duncan gave us hope.

The Derby mentioned above when he turned into a monster after Ruddock did him, the winner against Man Utd and as the article says he tended to turn up for the big games and not the smaller ones.

That said, the game I remember him for was Bolton. Kendall made him captain and you could see the pride bursting out of him when he led the team out. I was there in the main stand with my best mates from school, all of us turned 40 and a couple of our sons came along too.

That was the day he was unplayable – scored all three goals and dragged the team to a vital win. I'm not sure but weren't we two up and then pegged back to 2-2 before he headed the winner and Myhre made a marvellous airborne save?

So in a way never a legend but in other ways more of a legend than most in that we will be talking about him in twenty years time regardless of why.

Steve Carse
8 Posted 13/09/2019 at 11:11:05
Tommy, where would a hat trick against Bolton fit into your sentence "When the cameras were and he was playing Man Utd or Liverpool then he would show up"?
Dave Abrahams
9 Posted 13/09/2019 at 11:13:43
Duncan was well looked after by a fanatical Evertonian and his four sons when he came down from Scotland, if he didn’t learn how to love Everton from them he wouldn’t have learned it from anyone.

He proved his loyalty to this family and he is most probably part of the family now.

As for Duncan being a legend on the field not for me, if he has no regrets about his football career I’d be very surprised, he’s intelligent enough to know he should have made much more of his career than he did, very much more.

Tommy Carter
10 Posted 13/09/2019 at 11:19:03
Unfairly jailed?

He was on probation for an assault and then headbutted somebody in front of thousands of people.

A headbutt, especially one delivered with such force, cannot under any circumstances be considered a part of the physical side of the game. This was a man assaulting another man during a football game.

Daniel A Johnson
12 Posted 13/09/2019 at 11:28:06
Find it quite ironic that a player who you would use as an example to any young player of how not to do it is a first team coach at EFC.

As other have mentioned above 9 times out of 10 Ferguson was MIA, injured or suffering yet another ban. I never got the cult of Duncan I just always saw a ticking time bomb who would show up for the cameras and then be utterly atrocious more often than not.

Yet this is the guy who's now coaching Kean and DCL.

I certainly hope payers of his type never cross our doors again. A cult player definitely but a legend? That's an insult to players who deserve to be called legends.

Dave Williams
13 Posted 13/09/2019 at 11:28:15
Tommy, fair point apart from how many other players have served time for violence on the pitch? Off the top of my head( no pun intended) I remember Charlie George and Peter Osgood butting people, Vinnie Jones attempting one on Ratters and no end of violent assaults with feet – Shearer on the Israeli lad.

I'm not defending what he did and I'm not saying jail was not a suitable punishment but apart from Duncan every other player since I started watching football in 1963 has got away with violence on the pitch – premeditated in many cases- and therefore he was singled out.

Michael Nisbet
14 Posted 13/09/2019 at 11:45:16
Cantona aimed a karate kick at a fan. Yet Ferguson gets jailed for a "headbutt". Have you seen it? It's not much more than a coming together, made to look worse by the speed he approaches McStay.
Tommy Carter
15 Posted 13/09/2019 at 11:57:42
Each circumstance has to be assessed on its own merits. The fact with Duncan is that he was on probation for assaulting somebody. And like anybody else on probation, he was being supervised and any potential further offence would have to be considered in terms of the risk he posed to people.

Clearly he posed a risk to people as when he was out-muscled by McStay and didn't like it, he headbutted him.

Should he have gone to Jail? If that's what the Scottish criminal justice system deems appropriate for any person in these circumstances, then it can't be considered unfair.

Phil (Kelsall) Roberts
16 Posted 13/09/2019 at 12:20:46
Just for the record - Duncan scored 60 goals for us in the Premier League.

He played just under 15,907 minutes in the 10 seasons he was here. That is 176 full games out of a possible 380 - so less than half.

He scored once every 265 minutes so around 1 every 3 games. Graham Sharp scored every 257 and Paul Rideout every 265. Radzinski and Andy Johnson every 268. Rooney, every 250 minutes. So his scoring record when he was on the pitch was there with our other strikers over the last 30 years. It is only the likes of Lineker, Lukaku and Yakubu who are in a different level for scoring.

Joe Royle once talked about somebody becoming a Legend before they became a great player. It might have been Duncan but I can't remember.

I think what he did do was "excite" us. An Andy Hinchcliffe cross and Duncan comes steaming in and bullets a header taking out defender and goalkeeper at the same time. It was those times that got us out of our seats that made him the "legend".

Andrew James
17 Posted 13/09/2019 at 12:21:42
I've just looked at his goal stats. Our fans dismiss DCL for similar goal returns. I realise DCL is in a better side but many of our set pieces were geared towards DF getting on the end of them.

I think people regard him fondly because he scored some memorable goals against Utd and the RS. And because if you look at our 3 most enjoyable seasons between 1994 and 2005, he was there. Those seasons being 94/95 (FA Cup), 02/03 (Moyes first season when we finished 7th) and 04/05 (4th).

For me, I regard him now much like I do James McFadden. Totally different players but both compelling although often frustrating options as the 12th man with an ability to score memorable goals.

Richard Duff
18 Posted 13/09/2019 at 12:31:05
Duncan was our Obi-Wan, sent to save us, our only hope!

If football is about dedication, doing a good job, being reliable, a steady player to keep the wheels of the business moving, knowing your place, Duncan was never going to be it.

Its, not. It's about entertainment, fight, passion, flashes of brilliance, beating adversity, offering hope, anticipation, swagger, joy! Duncan was that.

Thank Goodness.

Dave Williams
19 Posted 13/09/2019 at 12:40:46
Richard, well described

Tommy, justice according to the law can often be unfair.

Phil, awesome research!

Tony J Williams
20 Posted 13/09/2019 at 12:51:36
"A headbutt, especially one delivered with such force"

No chance fella, there is absolutely no backward movement just a forward movement with his whole body, basically the definition of getting in someone's face.

The fact that he butted a busy just prior was probably the reason why it was so high profile and he got jail time.

But as stated above, Cantona high kicked a fan then started to try and deck him with punches and gets a match ban only.

He is a Legend to me, simply because without him I don't see how we would have stayed in the Premier League, him and Campbell saved us when we really needed them.

Also a winner of an FA Cup medal when we were a truly shocking side.

Peter Gorman
21 Posted 13/09/2019 at 13:32:16
Firstly, a massive thanks to Paul for allowing these enjoyable pieces to be published here. I'm looking forward to any others that might be on their way.

I totally sympathise with both extremes of view when it comes to Ferguson. On the one hand, he was the bright light in a team that produced many dark days of football and he was at times absolutely 'unplayable'; the two goal haul at Old Trafford the season after the cup win, the derbies, the towering header at Highbury that crowned the introduction to MOTD, so imperious was his leap.

Then there are the darker memories of self-destruction; needless red cards such as after throttling Stefan Freund, losing a header to Dennis Wise who even had the temerity to rub it in with a cheeky wink, something that should never have happened in a month of Sundays. The red cards say a lot.

But I don't think it is fair to call him a 'limited footballer', perhaps 'footballer of limited effectiveness' would be fairer. His excellent skill and touch for the proverbial big man were often on display; the turn and volley against Wimbledon, the neat turns and finishes first against Utd then the near carbon-copy against the RS. I think even on his Newcastle debut he scored a blinding volley.

For all the reasons stated in previous posts, he doesn't quite make legendary status for me either - yet whilst it is certainly tempting to blame his lifestyle for him being frequently sidelined through injury, I recall that very late into his career he discovered some rare genetic condition that at least prompted a change in diet in an attempt to increase his longevity, I can't quite recall the details.

Off the pitch, I will always remember an anecdote from a Scottish friend and Rangers fan who thought the world of him. As a young nipper he had waited hours in the cold to catch a few autographs from his team after training. Last out was Ferguson, who asked the 'wee man' how he proposed to get home and then drove my mate to his house to get him out of the cold Glaswegian air.

It was for thoughtful gestures such as this that I think most fans remember Ferguson with such fondness, however entertaining or otherwise his antics could be.

Steve Ferns
22 Posted 13/09/2019 at 13:53:47
Duncan was not a limited football. He was superb in the air, but I don't think anyone disputes that. The goal he scored against Man Utd with his feet shows how much ability he had on the deck too. He was not a limited player. That's why he infuriated me so.

I'm of an age that Duncan was a big hero of mine. Anyone who was a teenager when Duncan arrived loved him and his goals, as someone put above, he was the bright light in those dark times. If he brought his A game, then we could beat anyone. He gave you hope that it would be the day and we'd win. And when we did win he gave you hope that he'd find some consistency and we'd climb the table. But, ultimately, he let me down too often and his halo lost it's shine for me.

That Bolton game was a perfect example of Duncan Ferguson. He was made captain for the first time by Howard Kendall. And I recall my conversation at half-time. Why does it take the armband for him to perform like that? And then after 60 minutes he was done. He could barely walk he was so tired. Hands on hips "blowing for tugs". The guy was clearly unfit, which is ludicrous for a professional. That game was the most Duncan ever ran, and clearly he was only fit enough to do so for 60 minutes. So what did he do in training all week?

He was a man who promised much, but ultimately delivered little and left me feeling very let down by what should have been. Sure he might "love the blues", and I don't deny that, but I would like to think someone who truly loved the blues would give a lot more to the cause.

John Pierce
23 Posted 13/09/2019 at 14:07:19
Paul, an excellent set of ‘mini-pen portraits', I hope we see more. On the surface it seemed a deeply flawed individual, he made the mistake of getting caught, plenty of his peers in that era were no better but for whatever reason managed to keep things quiet. There are probably deeper reasons for his behavior, so from that point of view some fairly ‘sniffy' opinions about the man.

As for the footballer, again some revisionist notions about his record. In the time he played for us, we were mostly extremely poor. Who else up front was tearing it up for us? Campbell sure, contributed hugely. But who else? Madar, Bakayoko, Spencer, Jeffers? Nah behave! In what were very barren years for us, I think his record stands up.

Sure, compare him to today's ultimate professional and clean living guys... he falls down. Yet he has contributed to some long-lasting memories which the crop of the last decade have got nowhere near achieving.

Jay Wood
[BRZ]

24 Posted 13/09/2019 at 14:19:34
Duncan Ferguson: Legend or Myth?

First, his football ability. Rightly recognized as being virtually unplayable in the air, focusing on his height and prodigious leap only ignores what he was capable of with the ball at his feet. He was much more technically gifted than many acknowledge.

Against that, during his playing days, you have to question his dedication and commitment to training, keeping himself fit and delivering consistently on the pitch.

Now he had his moments. He was our talisman in some very dark days. I can understand perfectly how, for a certain generation, he is afforded cult 'legend' status.

Even some of his red cards - undermining the team on the day - were so memorable that you can only laugh at them. His jail sentence was extremely harsh. Much, MUCH worse has been committed on the football field in full view of the all-seeing TV eye. Perversely, the way Everton stood by him at the time, cemented even further the bonds with the player and fans.

It would appear the man has greatly mellowed with the passing of the years. He himself recognizes he should have achieved more with the talents he had.

But worthy of the moniker Everton legend? Not for me. He wouldn't get into my top 4-5 Everton teams down the ages. But I still have a fondness for many of the moments he did give us and even though I've never met him, I do like Duncan the man.

Brian Williams
25 Posted 13/09/2019 at 14:54:34
He was a talisman when we needed somebody, a "fuck you" in the face of others during some bad times.

Players' importance and status sometimes seem to be elevated with time and I think that's happened in this instance, IMO. Legend? No.

Unforgettable character? Most certainly.

Terence Leong
26 Posted 13/09/2019 at 15:10:34
I think everyone is probably in agreement that if you compare him to others who have been labelled as "legend", then Big Dunc is not in that category.

What most would agree is that he was someone whom the fans found as a focal point, to rally for, especially during 10 plus years in the doldrums.

Many would agree that he didn't play to his fullest potential. What I think gets overlooked was that the main cause of his injuries (calf) was down to a sciatic nerve in his back. And that was only diagnosed late in his career.

Quite a fair bit was written about how he played through the pain barrier, and being in constant pain, I can imagine that it affects anyone's overall approach towards the game.

I agree that his knockdown was often not picked up by a fellow teammate, though it's arguable who should be faulted for that, ie, players who can anticipate the second ball, or do we expect the target man to always knock it down accurately to their teammates.

He has no small skill, and is able to control the ball quite well for a player of his size. This is actually acknowledged by many players, teammates and opposition.

Nevertheless, it is probably true that he wasn't as dedicated to the game, and only came to realisation towards the end of his career, that he could have done better.

Richard Duff
27 Posted 13/09/2019 at 15:31:39
Can't wait for Referee Collina's post to arrive on here once he's finished off the Friday lunch at UEFA HQ.
Dennis Stevens
28 Posted 13/09/2019 at 15:46:44
I thought he made his debut in the League Cup 2nd leg match versus Pompey at Fratton Park & his League debut in the home match versus Coventry City. The trip to Selhurst Park would have been his 3rd appearance for the Club, iirc.
Alan Bodell
29 Posted 13/09/2019 at 15:54:35
Richard you are right to mention Collina, that disallowed goal cost us bundles, I was there that night and how from being rated a great referee he barely gets a mention today is karma.

But as for Duncan, he was a good player that came when we couldn't attract any decent players but as for being worthy of his status as a special player, not for me.

Richard Duff
30 Posted 13/09/2019 at 16:24:28
I grew up along the road from Duncan and his rise at Dundee United had everyone in Scotland excited that at such a young age you had a fearless player with a heading ability that senior defenses just couldn't handle. Cross it high with dip and he could time his header to perfection often over two defenders at the back post and stick it away. He was United's hope, then Scotland's hope, then Ranger's hope (remember they bought him to try and recreate the McCoist/Hateley partnership that nearly took them to the European Cup).

How the SFA and judicial system treated him was at the time, the finest advert for any young Scot wanting to live without the threat of injustice from old boys networks and corrupt institutions to upsticks and leave the country.

Fast forward to the end, I love him for the 2 goals away at Forest in 1998 ( A game I was lucky to get out alive from the Forest end) and then to the grand finale, A winner away at Norwich and the goal v Man United that gave us the belief we could finish 4th that year. The Champions League qualifier was clearly his last hurrah, he knew it, we knew it, Collina blew it.

Jay Harris
31 Posted 13/09/2019 at 16:56:59
The reason that Duncan is a "legend" to many is that he was one of the people. An ordinary guy with a giant heart.

Not one of the posts so far has mentioned the amount of charity work he would do. How he would pop into the Wilmslow after a game and buy all Evertonians a pint. How he was so genuine to his own principles of not taking shit from anyone including the SFA and some wannabe hard cases like Ince and Ruddock.

Tommy, I don't know what age you are but I have yet to see you post anything positive about any player or the club. Get a life man. Nobody is perfect but some people should be appreciated for their contribution to life.

Duncan will always be remembered fondly by me and I grew up on Alex Young, Roy Vernon and big Joe so I have seen some great players in my lifetime.

Christy Ring
32 Posted 13/09/2019 at 17:10:56
Tommy @10 Totally disagree, no other footballer did time for what happened on the field.. Paul Davis broke Glen Cockerill's jaw with a left hook, carried off, and got a 9 game ban, a lot worse, McStay finished the game, SFA hung Duncan out to dry.

As for his career, on his day he was unplayable. superb in the air, and a very good first touch on the ground... but 'what's seldom is wonderful', we didn't see enough of it. Sadly he was too lazy, a lot of his injuries were probably due to his fitness regime, or lack of it.

Don Alexander
33 Posted 13/09/2019 at 17:27:32
Ferguson took the proverbial throughout his entire playing "career" with us, excepting maybe half a dozen games when he decided to be arsed. If he's a "Legend" I think those who think so need to get out more.
Peter Mills
34 Posted 13/09/2019 at 17:27:47
On his day he was a sight to behold, a player who simply terrorised “class” defenders. And he pumped up the atmosphere, producing memorable bear-pit evenings against Liverpool and Manchester Utd.

Which made so much of his career with us a disappointment- we knew he was capable of producing more than he usually did. Some of his bookings and sendings-off also seemed dubious, the famous one at Leicester occurring in a fairly tame game. It almost seemed pre-meditated.

I have also heard stories of his great generosity, and it may be that behind the scenes he dispenses some wisdom to the younger players.

So, a mixed bag. A good Everton character rather than a legend.

Dave Abrahams
35 Posted 13/09/2019 at 17:49:30
Christy (32), if I remember that Paul Davis left hook correctly (via tv) it was the most cowardly punch I’ve ever seen, came behind Cockerill, who was defenceless, and then threw the punch, definitely worth a longer sentence than Duncan got, for a very, very mild Kirkby kiss, I’d be ashamed to call it a butt.
Kevin Latham
36 Posted 13/09/2019 at 19:11:24
I've got to agree with the majority of posters here, not a legend in my eyes. Undoubted ability but too often limited application. The Liverpool, Man Utd and Bolton goals were a sight to behold but I can't think of too many other games where he ran the show. He was better at taking players by the scruff of the neck rather than games.

There are a few references above to him not being arsed in some games and quite correct too in my opinion, but I can't recall true legends like Bally, Brian Labone, Reidy not being arsed - ever. I've nothing against Big Dunc but maybe he just came around at a time when we we're looking for a character to lead the line, and let's face it we Blues often have a thing about our big centre forward.

On reflection, that last sentence wasn't very well constructed but I think you know what I mean!

Andy Crooks
37 Posted 13/09/2019 at 19:28:04
Duncan Ferguson a legend? No. Why is he still hanging around? Why did he not go with, say, Martinez, Koeman, Unsworth and Allardyce? Legend, no. Charity case? Apparently.
Stephen Brown
38 Posted 13/09/2019 at 19:42:06
There are many logical posts on here saying why Dunc doesn't deserve legendary status but there's always a player that you are blinkered to!!

Mine is Dunc! Hero and legend in my eyes despite lots of logical reasons why not!

Probably my age!! Teenager in the 90s!

Steve Ferns
39 Posted 13/09/2019 at 19:52:18
Stephen, I was a teenager in the 1990s too. He was a hero to me and my mates too. But as I said above I felt let down by him. I don't see anyone disagree with him being the hero of our generation, although I preferred Super Kevin Campbell.

Most would also agree he was a very good player and a shining light in dark times. It's just he simply doesn't deserve "Legend" status and to be at the level of Dixie Dean, Alans Ball and Young, Howard Kendall, Neville Southall, and other true legends. Perhaps "Icon" would be a better term as he was a standout player of the 90s (alongside Kanchelskis and Southall).

Brian Harrison
40 Posted 13/09/2019 at 20:21:29
I think like a lot of posts it often depends on when you were born or started watching Everton as to whether Ferguson was a legend or not.

For me, nowhere near a legend, great header of a ball and didn't have a bad left foot but he had just as many faults as he had good things about his game.

Kevin Molloy
41 Posted 13/09/2019 at 20:25:42
The thing with Duncan was we could see his quality, and his potential. I remember him running Gary Pallister ragged, and that was when he was the best centre-back around.

What I particularly remember about him was the weight he would put on his passes. So few footballers even at the top level do it as naturally as he did, he reminded me of Rooney in that respect.

Stephen Brown
42 Posted 13/09/2019 at 20:43:09
Steve #39

I know you're right and I'm pretty level headed except when talking about Big Dunc!! Haha!

Andy Crooks
43 Posted 13/09/2019 at 21:00:03
I can see how cynical my views must seem. Thinking it over, I can see how to Evertonians younger than me, that big Dunc really was something to admire in times that were grim. To me me, Dean, Hickson, Young, Labone, Ball and many more are legends.

To younger blues it might be Duncan and fair play. I have often said that I hoped that my views were not too entrenched to change.

Big Dunc, Everton legend to some. I guess the man would settle for that. Who wouldn't?

Don Alexander
44 Posted 13/09/2019 at 21:20:49
Andy, to me we're not "cynical". We're sceptical (to some tune) but that's different. Put it this way, if we now kept playing a player who seemed to serially seek out bookings, sendings off and suspensions, and ran the gamut of, erm, "injuries" causing even more missed games, and almost always when he played never seemed to give a toss, he'd quite rightly be lambasted all day every day on TW, and quite rightly so.
Eric Paul
45 Posted 13/09/2019 at 21:55:08
Ask not the fans if Ferguson is a legend; ask his teammates and opposition players. Players like a talisman, a hard case who they know will have their backs if it gets tasty, and the opposing team fear, and fear him they did.

I would prefer to be in a team of Fergusons than a team of cowards like Shearer.

Anton Walsh
46 Posted 13/09/2019 at 21:55:36
One of the most unprofessional players to ever play for Everton. Always gave his all but his all should have been a lot more. Drank and smoked too much and prefared living up to his hardcase label by always getting sent off for chinning or ribbing or throttling someone rather than thinking of the team.

Reid, Cahill, Hibbert, Southall… I could go on. But Duncan — ffs get real. No doubt he loves the club but he was and still is making a good living off it.

Don Alexander
47 Posted 13/09/2019 at 22:03:02
Jeez Eric, you'd prefer Ferguson to Shearer? Wow!!

Maybe at the front of a queue in a chippy perhaps.

Mike Gaynes
48 Posted 13/09/2019 at 22:14:32
I've written of Ferguson at greater length before, and there's no need to elaborate now on what others have said better.

To me he was neither a legend nor a character, but an embarrassment. When invited to meet him on my first visit to Goodison, I politely declined. Perhaps if I had grown up with the club, I would feel differently.

And if in fact he has become a fine coach and a great what-not-to-do example to the young players at Everton, full credit to him. But on the question of his playing career, I'm with Tommy and Daniel A. He's one I prefer to forget.

Mike Gaynes
49 Posted 13/09/2019 at 22:27:38
Eric #45, Alan Shearer a coward? Are you nuts?

That guy would fearlessly stick his head in anywhere if he had a chance to score. Fought through bad injuries. Never shirked or backed down. Always stepped up in the big games.

Exemplary for his charity work and outspoken advocacy about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in footballers. No lack of courage there.

Peter Warren
50 Posted 13/09/2019 at 22:48:46
In 1994-95 against Liverpool, Manchester United and Norwich in the FA Cup he was awesome. We were getting relegated and he gave us hope and then suddenly the team gelled – Watson went immense, Hinchcliffe came from nowhere – suddenly amazing, Southall was simply Southall – unbelievable! Parkinson was shit and suddenly as good as Paul Ince, Limpar was like Platini, Stuart was useful, Rideout dangerous.

As a 40-year-old now (15 then) that season was unbelievable but the icon without doubt was Duncan Ferguson – he was a class above. I even snuck into a hotel party with team straight after the 95 FA Cup Final and he was great then - as to be fair were Stuart and Limpar (Limpar was taking the mick a lot out of Stuart for missing the sitter in the game!)

The 95-96 season didn't he start on fire and score two crackers against Man Utd away. He was just class.

Against Liverpool – they would shit themselves with him in the team – better beat them not just through skill but sheer will power & personality.

Bolton – everybody's commented but does everybody not remember when Moyes came in – we were on our knees, just been humbled by Middlesbrough in cup, and he was immense once Moyes came in and Big Dunc was instrumental in keeping us up, scoring vital goals and winning us many points.

When we came 4th – it was that game at home against Man Utd which to my mind was decisive. That's the one that stands out more than any other to me. Man U were a real top team but Ferguson rolled back years and literally terrified their whole back line, most notably “hard man” Ferdinand who didn't want to know and shit himself and Tim Howard was perplexed at how somebody could get away with bodychecking him when trying to start an attack! Even in short period of Champions League qualifiers - he turned a hopeless cause around at great team away in Villarreal - inexplicably ruled out by bent ref/UEFA - again Ferguson at the centre of a vital part of our club history - that game is legendary as too is Ferguson.

Other notable items - yes his sending offs - sometimes so frustrating but sometimes hilarious - punching some Wigan player in ribs and dropping him - grabbing that shit Freund by throat at Filbert St and nearly popping the guys' eyes out.

Others writing him off as a legend as didn't always turn up, being unprofessional at times fair enough. However, writing him off as a legend as not good enough unlike Ball, Labone, Southall I think are missing the point. It's not down to how good you are.

To me, can't remember anybody else that gave me such fabulous memories in our last 25 year average period. Sorry liked people like Jagielka, Baines, Arteta but legend - none of them for me / Ferguson was a legend and yes he could definitely play. Almost all the top legendary games we he had in last 25 years all include Ferguson. The fact that may be an indictment on how shit we have been does not change the fact he is undoubtedly a legend.

Oh and finally to challenge view that would we put up with a player like him now - another legendary point about him - despite horrific injuries - he never once got a trainer on pitch in all his time with us - not once. Personally o find that amazing particularly when comparing it with pansy cry baby sissies we have on pitch diving around faking injuries nowadays

Andy Crooks
51 Posted 13/09/2019 at 23:11:48
Alan Shearer a coward? Surely not. To me, perhaps the finest striker I have ever seen. Hard as nails, loyal, single minded and someone to bet your life on. A truly top player.
Peter Lovell
52 Posted 13/09/2019 at 23:35:14
Duncan was one of my Everton heroes as a teenage to early twenties year old starting life at uni. He embodied everything I wanted in an Everton team steadily sinking out of the Premier League trapdoor. Big Dunc terrorised his opponents. The look of terror on Jimmy Bullard's face when gazing up at him will always stick with me.

I also feel lucky to have witnessed a little bit of the Duncan magic at first hand on a couple of occasions. Living in Notts, I used to dread the annual stick I would get from Forest fans at school following the regular defeat at the City Ground. Duncan, however, put paid to all those memories.

Sat in a supposely 'neutral' section of the main stand, I witness Duncan tear into Forest to the disdain of the Forest fans around me.

A brilliant low drive into the corner, followed by a wonderful diving header left me delirious, jumping for joy. Only to be told by a reds fan to stop it. My reply was "But I'm completely neutral." This was followed swiftly by "You will be in a minute!"

Duncan was a legend as a player and a man. I wrote to him whilst he was serving his prison sentence and was astonished to receive a reply from him a couple of months later. He loves the club and the fans and, speaking for the majority I believe, we love him too. Thank you, Duncan, for helping to make the ‘90s Everton a team worth watching.

Kieran Kinsella
53 Posted 13/09/2019 at 23:39:57
I would rather be in a team of Shearers.

What a ridiculous comment from #45
Kevin Prytherch
54 Posted 13/09/2019 at 00:00:26
The same Alan Shearer who booted a person in the head when they were on the ground? I see where you're coming from, Eric.

Anyone remember a Man Utd game where hardman Roy Keane ever turned up being a hardman while Ferguson was playing? Nope – me neither. Soft lad Keane shit himself every time against Ferguson.

Ferguson struck fear into every opposition whether he played well or not. The Dogs of War team with Royle was my favourite I've witnessed (I was 8 last time we won the league). It was the team not to be messed with and Ferguson carried that on.

Ferguson unfortunately played in the wrong era. We'd have loved him in his prime in the same team as Arteta, Pienaar and Cahill in their prime, sadly he was surrounded by Blomqvist, Alexandersson and Simon Davies!!!!

How we'd love him back for derby games now. It wouldn't be knives to a gunfight with him back in the team.

To me, he is the only player since Watson and Southall (possibly with the addition of Cahill) who truly deserves to be called a legend of the club.

And finally, how many coaches do you see who started out coaching for free like Ferguson did. He never demanded a wage for coaching, instead he learnt his trade for nothing at the club he loves.

Kevin Latham
55 Posted 13/09/2019 at 00:03:38
Peter @50, I think that those of us who have ‘written him off as a legend’ in comparison to Ball, Labone, Dave Hickson and others are not referring to whether he was as good as them but his inconsistency in terms of attitude on the pitch and his willingness to put a full shift in for every game. You could never accuse those other players of that. His talent isn’t in doubt, I just wish he’d have tried to show it week in week out.
Kieran Kinsella
56 Posted 14/09/2019 at 00:13:38
A team of Fergusons? One would be in jail, three suspended, four injured… so you'd be left with 3 and have to forfeit — which is lucky ‘cause only one of the three would be up for the game.
Andy Crooks
57 Posted 14/09/2019 at 00:13:38
Kevin, he never demanded a wage as a coach because no-one, not one club, offered him one. He got a new career due to the sentiment of Bill Kenwright. I would guess he struck most fear into the poor sod who had to press the key that sent £20 grand a week into his bank account for doing fuck all.

He was loyal to fat Sam, not quite loyal enough to fall on his sword along side him. Hang in there, legend, this club still owes you.

Andy Crooks
58 Posted 14/09/2019 at 00:20:03
Peter, just read your post @52. The fact that Duncan wrote back to you is something that not many players would do. Wish I had read that sooner.

He really does divide opinion. Kevin, as an afterthought to my last post, I get your point.

Christy Ring
59 Posted 14/09/2019 at 00:23:00
Kevin @54, I think you're a bit harsh, saying he was surrounded by Alexandersson and Davies, hadn't he Pembridge in midfield!!!
Tommy Carter
60 Posted 14/09/2019 at 00:32:43
People appear to be attributing Big Duncan for our success in 1995. Save for a decent performance in the quarterfinal against Newcastle he contributed very little during the cup run. The outstanding defeat of Tottenham had nothing to do with Duncan Ferguson.

After January, he scored just a single league goal, albeit a brilliant one against Man Utd. But where were his goals in the run-in? Especially important considering that it wasn't until the Ipswich game in May that we were mathematically safe.

David Currie
61 Posted 14/09/2019 at 02:49:35
Loved Duncan back in the day, he had terrific ability but obviously his lifestyle was not great. He seemed not to be dedicated enough to be a top player, pity he did not play in a better team. He would have been superb in the 1985 team instead of Gray as he had more ability.
Kenn Crawford
62 Posted 14/09/2019 at 08:24:47
Sorry I cannot believe all you nay sayers sure Dunc had limitations but very few players don’t,how many players of the modern era only have one foot that’s limited, Duncan bled for the team yes he went mia but so does half the present day team and half of you forget actually how good he was on the ground. Legend yes
Richard Duff
63 Posted 14/09/2019 at 09:18:59
Peter 52. That was the Forest game I referred to at the start of the thread! I was in the Forest section right at the back and when Dunc got the second they were banging on the sheet steel at the back of the stand, severely pissed off. They knew they were a really shit team if we were beating them at home and eventually did get relegated. Dropped onto Hooters on the way back too.
Dave Abrahams
64 Posted 14/09/2019 at 09:37:31
Peter (52), I sent him a letter plus a book on birds, only a couple of pages about pigeons in it unfortunately, I met Duncan at a wake, for the wife and mother of the family I mentioned earlier in this thread, and asked him did he get the book I sent him while he in the Queens gaff, he smiled and asked me did I get the reply, which of course I did, with a signed photo of himself enclosed.

Duncan played his part that night, at the wake, bringing round trays of food and bottles of beer, just another guest paying his respect to a lovely lady and her family.

Duncan easy to like as a man, but sorry Dunc a great player at times but not a legend.

Tommy Carter
65 Posted 14/09/2019 at 10:52:28
I don’t think anybody doubts Duncan’s ability. He had plenty of it

In the summer of 2005 I was lucky enough to see an Everton pre-season training session.

I was astonished to see how superb an athlete Ferguson was. He outsprinted most and led the way in terms of the stamina and long distance running.

The issue with Ferguson was focus, attitude and motivation. The fact was he couldn’t perform against the lesser teams unless he involved himself in a personal battle.

Eric Paul
66 Posted 14/09/2019 at 11:20:26
No mike I’m not nuts, shearer was a sly, nasty player who was fond of the elbow remember the one on Weir when he looked over his shoulder to check where he was before assaulting him.
Carena Duffy
67 Posted 14/09/2019 at 11:46:15
Duncan will always be my Everton legend who put the fear of god into the opposition defenders Sol Campbell, Tony Adams, Rio Ferdinand, Razur Ruduck, the list is endless. The great man Howard Kendall told me that in 1998 if we’d never had the big man we would have been relegated he added he single handedly kept us up also saying that on his day he was the best there was. Duncan was a hero to many many fans and to this day he is still worshiped in this city.
Tommy Carter
68 Posted 14/09/2019 at 11:53:47
@66 Eric

Shearer was a phenomenal player.

There can be absolutely no dispute about that

Rob Dolby
70 Posted 14/09/2019 at 12:36:51
In an era of average players producing poor results week after week. Turmoil in the running of the club. We needed something or someone to lift the club.

Joe Royal and the talismanic Ferguson did that. Whatever people think of his ability or private life the fact is thousands sang his name every week knowing that on his day we had a chance of beating anyone. No knives to a gunfight with Big Joe and Duncan leading the line.

Eric Paul
71 Posted 14/09/2019 at 13:12:09
Correct Tommy
John Pierce
72 Posted 14/09/2019 at 13:26:28
Shearer was the absolute opposite of Ferguson. Fearless, dedicated and a total sly dog of a player, a complete shithouse, unsurprisingly it made him a total beast of a player, week in week out.

I absolutely despised him & Newcastle. there was begrudging respect there in that tirade if you look hard enough. Seriously get a magnifying glass!

Paul Birmingham
73 Posted 14/09/2019 at 14:41:34
Duncan, was a Talisman, and brought hope in a time when the clubs fortune were declining and he kept us up. He inspired pride and belief in a period when the club was surviving.

Whilst he scored some great goals and galvanised against the RS and Manx’s, on many occasions, it’s hard to justify in my view, the term “Legend”, as this is for me out of context.

He brought hope and belief and we are forever thankful, but Talisman, for me is more fitting of his playing days for EFC.

John Keating
74 Posted 14/09/2019 at 18:16:32
Legend? Never in million years...

Wasted talent? Definitely!

Eric Paul
75 Posted 14/09/2019 at 19:33:08
John,

Like Rooney???

Martin Nicholls
76 Posted 14/09/2019 at 20:09:01
Tommy #60,

"Where were his goals during the (94-95) run-in?"

Wasn't he recovering from a hernia operation during that run-in? Even those who regard him as a legend wouldn't claim he could score from a hospital bed!

Joe McMahon
77 Posted 14/09/2019 at 20:19:08
Oh no, Liverpool are top of the league and we are going back to the '90s to discuss a striker that scored approx 60 goals in 11 years?!?!

Lukaku bettered that in 4 seasons; Salah will beat that in 2.5 seasons. Even strikers no-one talks about – like Alan Smith for Arsenal, David Hirst for Sheffield Wednesday – will have scored more.

Not a legend whatsoever (in my humble opinion).

Eric Paul
78 Posted 14/09/2019 at 20:51:14
I think you might be lost, Joe, this is a subject dedicated to a player who played for us in the 90s, legend or not.

And you brought the L-word into it.

Henry Lloyd
79 Posted 15/09/2019 at 04:10:48
How about we call him a "Legend" for his desire to win and his attitude in a Blue Shirt" as for me he showed exactly what players do not show today – pride in wearing the shirt.

Comments from people like Mike Gaynes... "I politely declined to meet him" just piss me off. (Who the hell are you?)

When it comes to "proud Evertonians" you will do well to meet one prouder than Duncan Ferguson.

How do you go to Goodison Park and "politely decline" to meet Duncan Ferguson?

Ridiculous comment!!

Henry Lloyd
80 Posted 15/09/2019 at 04:23:01
Kevin @54.

Well done, mate. That is a wholly accurate description of who Duncan Ferguson was and a certain "Legend" in my eyes! And I agree wholeheartedly with what you have said.

Roman Sidey
82 Posted 16/09/2019 at 10:39:04
I only really saw the last four-ish seasons of Ferguson's time at the club, but I've seen almost every match while he's been a coach.

Quite honestly, whenever I see his name anywhere the words just automatically remind me of one of the many things that is wrong with this club. Talisman during a very rough decade; maybe, but never a legend.

John Pierce
83 Posted 16/09/2019 at 16:24:04
Paul!

Post another one please! We need a distraction.

Beardsley maybe!?

Lee Courtliff
84 Posted 17/09/2019 at 07:47:38
17 August 1996. My best ever day at Goodison Park. Duncan completely overshadowed both Alan Shearer (world record transfer making his debut) and Les Ferdinand with a towering performance.

It was beautiful and beastly all at the same time.

I understand all the criticism of the man but to my generation (I had just turned 13 when we signed Dunc) he was the best we had and the best we'd ever seen (on his day).

The 1990s were dark times.

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