“When Carlo Ancelotti says something, the players jump to attention and so do I”

Friday, 31 January, 2020 25comments  |  Jump to last

Paul Joyce interviews Duncan Ferguson, a first-team coach whose role is no longer a mystery and who now gets the honour and privilege of working with and learning under one of the best managers in the game.

“I'd heard it said around the city, ‘What is Duncan Ferguson doing at Everton? What does he do?' Well, now they know what I can do. The problem is people know that I'm on the bench because of my name, but name me another first-team coach at another club?

“As a first-team coach, you do what the manager tells you to do. If the manager tells you to set up the pitch [putting the cones out] that is what you do. If he tells you to do a finishing session, a possession session, a passing drill . . . believe me, in the last ten years I have done every drill there is to be done.

“Some managers ask you to do more, some ask you to do less. You don't see first-team coaches running up the touchline because that's not your job. So I'm proud of the fact we picked up those points and shut some people up. I proved I could do it over a small sample of games and the club, and fans, know there is someone here who really cares."

» Read the full article at The Times [£]

Reader Comments (25)

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Mike Gaynes
1 Posted 31/01/2020 at 19:13:21
Unfortunately, it's behind a paywall.
Peter Gorman
2 Posted 31/01/2020 at 21:05:44
Could be worse, it might be paying the Guardian.
Trevor Powell
3 Posted 31/01/2020 at 21:53:58
Even worse to paying money to the Murdochs' Evil Empire!
Rob Halligan
4 Posted 31/01/2020 at 21:56:46
Does Lyndon know you have to subscribe to The Times to read their articles in full?
Brent Stephens
5 Posted 31/01/2020 at 22:03:28
Trevor, Murdoch and evil is a tautology.
Lyndon Lloyd
Editorial Team
6 Posted 31/01/2020 at 22:15:20
Rob (4), the article was open when I posted the link. Apologies if it is now pay-walled.
Jeff Hough
7 Posted 01/02/2020 at 09:48:22
100% agree with you Brent!
David Ellis
8 Posted 03/02/2020 at 09:41:27
What does Duncan do again?
Alan J Thompson
9 Posted 06/02/2020 at 04:25:52
"Some managers ask you to do more, some ask you to do less" - Just got me wondering how many managers has he worked under, 2?
James Hughes
10 Posted 06/02/2020 at 07:43:27
He has worked with Moyes, Martinez, Koeman, Allardyce & Anceotti.

Not that hard to work out...

Alan J Thompson
11 Posted 06/02/2020 at 08:28:02
James (#10); and he was 1st XI Assistant Coach under all those managers but not Silva?
Mike Galley
12 Posted 06/02/2020 at 08:33:50
Duncan Ferguson is not normally the type to beg but, given the circumstances, the time felt right to break with tradition. The scene was Liverpool’s Panoramic 34 restaurant, looking down on the city centre, and those sitting contentedly around the table reserved in his name were contemplating extending the soiree. All, that is, except one.

The group from Everton was distinguished. There was Carlo Ancelotti, the club’s recently appointed manager, who had chosen the wine — Italian, naturally — and his daughter, Katia. They were flanked by his technical staff, including Ancelotti’s son, Davide, with their host making his pitch.

Ferguson, the club’s first-team coach, had proposed a visit to a nearby jazz bar, the Puffin’ Rooms, but Ancelotti was feigning fatigue.

“I pleaded with him,” Ferguson, 48, said. “All the other staff, his daughter, were coming. He was a bit reluctant, so I said, ‘just for five minutes’. It was a lovely wee bar and there were two singers just getting themselves sorted out, getting their strings sorted.

“I ordered a nice nip of whisky for everyone — the boss had a coffee — and the two boys started singing away. In the end, he was there for two hours. At one point, they sang in Italian for him. I couldn’t get him out.”

The evening had mixed business and pleasure, with Ferguson delivering insights into his four-match spell as interim manager, and the club as a whole, to the storied newcomer who took charge of the team for the first time on Boxing Day.

“We spoke about the players, we spoke about the fans, we spoke about what the club is all about,” Ferguson said. “I told him about the Holy Trinity [Howard Kendall, Colin Harvey and Alan Ball]. We cannot keep going back to all the great days, but it is nice to hear about the important people in our club.

“I said about how Howard was a great mentor to me and I hope Carlo will be. He reminds me of Howard. He is that type of guy — a gentleman, very intelligent, and a football man who knows what he is doing. He obviously asked about the fans and what type of football they want.

“Any wee bits of information I could give him, I did. But he has been there and done it, hasn’t he? He’s top drawer and there’s no one better for me to learn from.”

Ferguson recognises that roles are now reversed and he intends to act like a “sponge”, soaking up as much information as possible as he looks to continue his development as a homegrown coach.

Ferguson took Everton out of the relegation zone during his brief time in charge


He will come back to that later but, first, reflects on his spell at the helm after the sacking of Marco Silva in early December, when he galvanised Everton and hoisted the club out of the relegation zone.

Images of him joyously sweeping up ballboys in his arms as he celebrated goals in the crucial 3-1 victory over Chelsea remain clear. As does the memory of him standing, jacketless, in the pouring rain during a 1-1 draw away to Manchester United, a sweatband on one wrist and Kendall’s old Armani watch, given to Ferguson by the late manager’s widow, Lily, on the other.

“I found it invigorating, even though I never slept,” he said. “At times, I forgot to eat. I couldn’t sleep because of the adrenalin and then you have the worry of picking teams as well. I was worried when we were doing OK, so I can imagine how bad it would be when you are losing.

“I was just myself. I didn’t know about grabbing ballboys at that time. You watch back the tapes and think, ‘My God.’ The first time I took my jacket off, I didn’t know I had done it. I didn’t know it was raining.

“Someone said you must have felt the cold, I didn’t feel the cold. It was instinctive. But you know how superstitious football people are. We scored when the jacket was off, so I thought I’d take it off again.

“It might have been lashing down but I wanted to portray that I was their leader. That we, me, the players, the fans, are in this together.”

In one sense, this plays up to the caricature of Ferguson as the Scottish braveheart, the tough-guy who collected numerous red cards during two spells as a centre forward at Everton.

Yet Bill Kenwright, the chairman, recounted at the club’s recent annual meeting how, on the night Silva was sacked, Ferguson had outlined his tactical blueprint before putting it into practice to buoy a team that had been sinking fast.

The switch to 4-4-2 at less than 48 hours’ notice in that first game against Chelsea paid dividends as did deploying Mason Holgate, the centre back, in midfield at Old Trafford to offset an injury crisis.

“I suppose everyone sees and remembers the player, but if you spoke to the people I played under, and I was Everton captain under three different managers, I hope they would say I was someone who always read the game,” Ferguson said.

“What did I think was the best attribute of the team? For me it was two strikers: we had Dominic [Calvert-Lewin], who I really love, and Richarlison. Get the two best ones in the right position and work round that. Other people maybe didn’t see what I saw.

“People say I ‘simplified’ it but playing 4-4-2 is not simple. We were at home, we had just been tonked by our rivals [Silva’s last game was the 5-2 defeat by Liverpool]. I could have gone in with the same personnel and formation, given a speech and crossed my fingers.

“Chelsea are a good team, they were in a Champions League position and they play with three central midfielders. It was two versus three in the middle. There was a big risk.”

Everton overcame that numerical disadvantage by making 37 tackles, the most challenges the club had made for a decade, but the gamble related to more than just 90 minutes of football.

“In this day and age, if you don’t do well in the four games what happens to my coaching career?” he said. “If you lose the first game, how many are shouting for you to take the second game?

“I’d heard it said around the city, ‘What is Duncan Ferguson doing at Everton? What does he do?’ Well, now they know what I can do. The problem is people know that I’m on the bench because of my name, but name me another first-team coach at another club?

“As a first-team coach, you do what the manager tells you to do. If the manager tells you to set up the pitch [putting the cones out] that is what you do. If he tells you to do a finishing session, a possession session, a passing drill. . . believe me, in the last ten years I have done every drill there is to be done.

“Some managers ask you to do more, some ask you to do less. You don’t see first-team coaches running up the touchline because that’s not your job. So I’m proud of the fact we picked up those points and shut some people up. I proved I could do it over a small sample of games and the club, and fans, know there is someone here who really cares.

Ferguson says Ancelotti is “one of the best managers who has ever lived”


“I understand that life — and football — moves on very quickly. But I’ll never forget that day against Chelsea for the rest of my life, and I’m pretty sure everyone else who was there will say the same thing. Now I want to continue learning.”

Since graduating from working with Everton’s under-12s, 14s, 16s and 18s, Ferguson has gained experience under Roberto Martínez, the Beglium coach, Ronald Koeman, the Holland coach, the former England manager Sam Allardyce and Silva.

Ancelotti brings a new perspective even if he has stuck with 4-4-2. The 60-year-old takes the lead during training, overseeing defensive drills and attacking patterns as he seeks to lay down a lasting blueprint.

There have been setbacks such as the FA Cup defeat by Liverpool when Ferguson says angry words were spoken afterwards — adding “but that’s normal” — and the injury-time goals conceded in the 2-2 draw with Newcastle United.

“Obviously it is early days,” he said. “But you pick up things like how calm he is. How direct he can be.

“He has that lovely way about him where he can be your friend, be nice and relaxed, and then [Ferguson bangs the table] once he says something the players are jumping to attention. As am I. Because you want to listen to him, don’t you? He has done it as a player and as a manager.

“He’s out on the training ground every day and he’s very hands-on.

“We wanted a world-class manager at Everton and, my God, we have got one. He is one of the best managers who has ever lived. He has won everything.

“To have him at our football club is a tremendous honour, and I am sure it is an honour for him as well.”

Mike Galley
13 Posted 06/02/2020 at 08:35:28
Just copied and pasted the article. Never gave a thought that I maybe shouldn't do that!

Hope it's not a problem, Lyndon. Apologies if it is!

Rob Halligan
14 Posted 06/02/2020 at 08:47:15
Thanks for doing that, Mike. I wouldn't have got to read the article otherwise. Lyndon and Michael won't mind one bit what you have done. Don't know why you think you shouldn't have done it though?
Mike Galley
15 Posted 06/02/2020 at 08:51:01
Rob, I wasn't sure if there might have been some sort of issue regarding copyright. Ah well, at least everyone can read it now. Thought it was a good article myself.
Tony Hill
16 Posted 06/02/2020 at 09:58:28
On a tangent, but an interesting point by the unmentionable Sam Allardyce. He says that the RS play a very good long ball game from right to left, but that no-one can talk of "long ball" when describing the Kloppites.

I think he's correct.

Brent Stephens
17 Posted 06/02/2020 at 10:59:46
Tony, yes and Liverpool used that long ball, right to left, with devastating effect against us.
Tony Hill
18 Posted 06/02/2020 at 11:58:29
Quite, Brent.
Tony Abrahams
19 Posted 06/02/2020 at 12:47:50
Thanks very much for that, Mike, I only read that because it was in your post, and it's one of the best things I've read for a long time.

I always asked what Duncan was doing, because I thought he was getting looked after by Bill Kenwright, but if actions speak louder than words, you can tell that now Ferguson has a much more active role, then the spirit in the dressing room is only going to grow, and this is what we have all wanted for years.

It seems to me that Duncan has reflected on his own career and now he's got a second chance on the other side of the fence, he's going to do his very best to make a real success of it, which is hopefully for Everton's gain!

Very best of luck Duncan, that really was an inspirational read.

Paul Tran
20 Posted 06/02/2020 at 14:46:15
Rob #4 and anyone else. If you register with The Times (it's free), you can get two free articles a week. There aren't that many about us, so you'll stay in that limit, for now anyway.
Daniel A Johnson
21 Posted 06/02/2020 at 15:53:50
Makes you wonder what did Ferguson think about Marco Silva?

Would love to know his thoughts, especially as he's gone out of his way to sing Ancelotti's praises.

Jerome Shields
22 Posted 06/02/2020 at 15:55:26
Duncan as first-team coach has bit his tongue over the years and done exactly what the Manager has asked him to do, 'My hands are tied' was his comment when tackled by a fan regarding team performance. He needed the job, and quietly built up his experience over the years and, in his short spell as caretaker manager, has answered the critics, including myself, who have asked 'What does he do?'

But I do think that Ancelotti would have a different answer to the statement they do what he says. In the main, most players do. Calvert-Lewin, Moise Kean and Richarlison are making better runs in the box, At the back, players have tightened up their game, Bernard has been transformed by Ancelotti, but the rest of the midfield has not.

Sigurdsson, Walcott and Delph play as they have always played. Davies still get caught in possession and Schneiderlin going forward in support is poor. Ancelotti did say that he wanted positive play going forward 'rather than possession. The midfield of Everton does neither and on Saturday they were woeful. The main tactical weakness arises from the above-named players not carrying out Ancelotti's instructions or not being able to.

Darren Murphy
23 Posted 06/02/2020 at 17:05:12
Are you seriously saying that he doesn't coach Mina etc at heading the ball? Apart from last week, he's as dangerous in the box with a header as a borrower, shocking that at 6ft-5in he doesn't hit the target or actually get it on target for once.
Jerome Shields
24 Posted 07/02/2020 at 17:04:12
Darren, I didn't comment on Mina, so I am not sure if your post refers to me. But, in fairness to Mina, before the game against Watford, the quality of ball into the box from set-pieces was woeful, as was player positioning.

Mina did attack the near post in both his runs into the box against Watford, as Ancelotti has been coaching his players in attack to do. The last-minute goal showed a perfect attacking formation with the player on the ball attacking the near post, Kean attacking the centre and Walcott attacking the far post.

The tactical weakness is in the quality of ball from open play in midfield.

Don Alexander
25 Posted 22/02/2020 at 23:44:36
Jerome's comments echo my bewilderment on how any pro footballer cannot be competent as a minimum in every aspect of the game, be it Mina with heading, 'most everyone re shooting, and too many with poor passing. And don't get me going on regularly failing to get past the first defender with a corner.

As a matter of personal pride, a pro footballer should put the hours, days and weeks in at Finch Farm, on top of what the club demand, to practice where they're inadequate and letting the side down.

Come to that, the club and coaches should be insisting on it.

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