It’s the day of Duncan Ferguson’s testimonial against Villareal. I’ve been looking forward to this for a while. Amid all the excitement of Wayne Rooney playing for Everton for the day, I’m really not that bothered about him, for today I’m all about Big Dunc.
It’s well documented that when he came down to Everton he fully expected to go back to Glasgow Rangers, with more being anticipated from his fellow loanee at the time, Iain Durrant – he even sat in the press conference in a scarlet suit jacket! However, just a couple of games into this new Everton number 9’s career, a former Everton number 9 came to the club’s rescue, and resisted the urge to substitute him in his first Merseyside derby – we all know what happened next, an Andy Hinchcliffe corner (remember how boss they were?) landed on Duncan’s head, and an Evertonian was created. He’s said himself, this was the moment that he knew he wanted to stay, that he knew he was one of us.
That’s what he became that day, and has clearly remained – an Evertoninan. Who can forget him simply lashing Paul Ince to the floor? How could you not love him after simply obliterating a Liverpool player in a derby win?
What Duncan brought to the club, apart from 74 goals in 239 games is almost intangible – an unquantifiable quality. At a time when the club was reliant on too many lower quality journeyman (with no disprespect to the likes of Carl Tiler intended), Duncan Ferguson was almost like the spirit of the fans who’d seen the 1985 team incarnated on the pitch. He may not have a fantastic goal return, but what we did get was an Evertonian on the pitch, and one who was willing to dive right in.
It’s often asked these days, “do modern footballers financially need a testamonial”? No, they probably don’t, but I do, as a fan, to show appreciation for someone who gave me and others something to look forward to in what’s turned out to be an extended trophy-barren spell. His display on Gary Speed’s debut against Newcastle, his header against Manchester United (past Tim Howard) in 2005. His return in 2000 against Charlton. Strangling Steffen Freund, decking Paul Scharner and calling David Elleray a baldy bastard (I also remember him goading the Celtic fans after scoring in Neville Southall’s own testamonial, and they took it well, it must be said). These may not have been the most well-advised things to do, however in the emotionally sterile, carbon-copy-post-match-interview world of modern football, he appealed to me.
For me, as someone who just about caught the glory days of the 1980’s Duncan Ferguson embodied the fighting spirit of our club at a time when we were on our knees and regularly, genuinely relegation threatened – he was something to latch on to in the middle of a frankly desparate time for Everton. While at Goodison, he won the FA Cup, he’s been with the club for over ten years all in, and I love him. I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that we could do with another Duncan in the side now.
Here is a man who may not have been the most prolific marksman of all time, yet he is exactly what we want from an Everton number 9. Mark my words, one day this man will be manager of Everton Football Club.
Alan Ball once said “Once Everton has touched you, nothing will ever be the same” – if ever you needed proof that this is possibly the most accurate statement ever, look no further than Duncan Ferguson.