Testimonials are typically a time to look back and wistfully reminisce. So after it was announced Everton would be hosting a belated one for former striker Duncan Ferguson against Villarreal, it was no surprise to see a poll running on the club’s official website recollecting some of the current first team coach’s best moments in a blue shirt.
They included vital goals and rousing performances, as you would expect. But in addition, the time he grasped Leicester City’s Steffen Freund around the neck, when he punched Paul Scharner and a confrontation with ex-Liverpool defender Sami Hyypia, were all down as options.
From afar, this may seem peculiar, but for Evertonians it’s no surprise; Ferguson was a divisive figure amongst the football firmament, but not at Goodison Park. For all the aforementioned unsavory incidents, the barrel-chested Scot is as positively etched in this generation of Toffees’ memories as the Everton crest tattooed on Ferguson’s upper left arm.
“Big Dunc” came to the club with a degree of infamy already attached in 1994. Rangers, who had paid a British record fee to land the powerhouse forward from Dundee United, let the Stirling-born striker head on loan to Everton after Ferguson had head-butted Raith Rovers’ John McStay. It was an incident which the Scot would eventually serve a three-month prison sentence for after later making his move to Merseyside permanent.
The aforementioned earlier incidents also blotted his Toffees career, which was interspersed with an ill-fated two-year spell at Newcastle United. As did injuries, with Ferguson spending plenty of time in the treatment room throughout his playing career—“in for a week, out for a month” the Liverpool supporters used to sing about the Everton talisman.
So, it begs the question, why is he such a deistic figure for those of a blue persuasion? After all, according to Toffeeweb, the striker only scored 72 Everton goals in 272 appearances, 81 which came from the bench. He also picked up a whopping eight Premier League red cards, currently the joint-most in the division’s history, per statbunker.com.
Yet, there are few Everton supporters in any walk of life with a bad word to say about their former No. 9.
“As a young lad growing up in Croxteth, Duncan Ferguson was a hero of mine,” said England skipper and Evertonian Wayne Rooney to the Everton website, who will play in the big man’s testimonial. “…had he not asked me to play I would have gone and supported him on the day as I am sure most other Evertonians will.”
“We just class him as one of the lads,” said current player and fellow Toffee Ross Barkley, per Neil Jones of the Liverpool Echo. “But you do have to be respectful because he is a coach and obviously he is a legend – everybody knows that.”
First of all, Ferguson was an excellent player. His stunning aerial ability was a hallmark of his game, but Big Dunc was a brilliant technician too. The Scot was a quality target man, an understatedly intelligent operator and had a sweet left foot. Indeed, former manager David Moyes claimed Ferguson was the finest finisher he had at Everton.