Ahead of Duncan Ferguson’s testimonial today, we’ll be revisiting a few articles from the past…
Wednesday, November 25, 1998 Published at 14:49 GMT
Duncan Ferguson last night insisted he was forced out of Everton, the club he loves and wanted to end his career with.
In an emotional interview, a sickened Ferguson broke his silence over the controversial £8m move which has stunned Evertonians and revealed:
His heartbreak at being told he was for sale
The special affection he has for Everton fans and why they will always be ‘in my blood’
His frustration at never playing with a settled strike partner
How he must now pledge his future to Ruud Gullit’s side
Ferguson was officially paraded at a press conference at St James’ Park yesterday before training with his new team-mates for the first time.
He recalled his anguish at being told by manager Walter Smith on Monday that the club were prepared to listen to offers for him, but believes the Everton boss was unaware a deal had then been lined up to go through later that day.
And Ferguson added in that conversation his dream of ending his career at Goodison Park died.
“The move was forced on me,” said an adamant Ferguson. “Everton simply didn’t want my services any longer. I knew on Monday morning that Everton were inviting offers for me. I knew by Monday afternoon that it was Newcastle, and the deal was done after the match that night.”
“The manager had told me on Monday morning the club was looking to sell me if the money was right, but I don’t think he knew a move was actually on later that day.”
“He brought me into his office and just said I was being put up for sale. He said it wasn’t his idea to sell me and that it was for financial reasons.”
“I was numb with shock really. It sickened me. I couldn’t believe it. I am absolutely heartbroken to leave the club.”
Ferguson continued: “I think everyone knows what Everton Football Club means to me. I thought I would finish my career there and I wanted to finish my career at Goodison Park. I approached the club for the new contract which I signed last season and a month ago I had been talking to my agent about asking for an extension to that deal.”
“I was happy to be at Everton for life, if they wanted me. In the last couple of days my world has turned upside down. I was preparing for Everton against Charlton Athletic and now I am going to be playing for Newcastle against Wimbledon.”
“It has been a traumatic time for me and my family.”
Ferguson paid tribute to the Everton fans who treated him as a cult hero following his move from Glasgow Rangers in 1994, and vowed never to forget their support, especially when he was serving a jail sentence in Glasgow’s Barlinnie Prison.
“I will never, ever forget the Everton fans and I mean that. They will be with me forever,” he said.
“When I was in jail it was a very difficult time in my career and my life and they stuck by me. All the letters I got then I appreciated so much; they made a hell of a difference. Everything they were saying to me I will remember. They were encouraging me and saying keep your chin up. It did help.”
“The support I received from the people of Liverpool was special. Everton fans will be in part of my blood because of the way they stood by me. Their loyalty to me was one of the main reasons why I love Everton so much. I will always have fond memories of the club. Getting to captain the club and wearing the Number 9 shirt after so many other great names meant a lot to me. Maybe you don’t realise how much at the time, but I did genuinely love the fans and the club.”
“Hopefully they will see me as someone who put his heart into the club and did his best for them.”
Ferguson was sacrificed by under-fire chairman Peter Johnson, as the club’s main asset, to raise funds and ease Everton’s financial troubles and the Scottish striker insists he was left with no option but to sign for Premiership rivals Newcastle in a five-and-a-half year deal which could earn him up to a staggering £40,000-a-week.
In an honest admission he said he could understand being sold if the drastic action benefited Everton in the long run.
“I don’t know Peter Johnson’s and Walter Smith’s thinking,” he said. “If the club is in financial trouble then maybe me going is the best thing that could happen. If they can bring in two or three star players as a result, then it could be the best thing in the long run. I can understand that, but I am still disappointed to be leaving.”
“But how could I stand in the way? If they didn’t want me there, I have got to move on. If it wasn’t Newcastle, it would have been someone else. Maybe not tomorrow or next week, but sooner rather than later because the decision was made that Duncan Ferguson can go. You cannot turn down move after move when your employers have made their minds up because, look at it the other way, aren’t you holding them back then?”
“The money has nothing to do with it. Nothing at all. It is not the be-all and end-all. I was making a good living at Everton. I like Liverpool. I like the city, the way of life, the scousers. I must do, after all I married one.”
He insisted his Everton career, in which he has scored 41 goals, was successful, but admitted he regretted never playing alongside a settled partner or being serviced by a recognised winger during his four years at Goodison.
“That was frustrating. I never had a settled partner and we never really played with a winger. I wish I could have had more success and scored more goals for the fans, but that isn’t just down to Duncan Ferguson. It is down to the whole team and one player cannot make all the difference. The whole picture is important.”
“For four or five years, I’d say creating chances has been a problem for Everton. Maybe Bakayoko can be the answer. You have to give him time to settle in, but we’ll never know if it would have worked alongside me because I am not there anymore.”
“But I would like to think my Everton career has been successful. Everton bought me for £4m, have sold me for £8m and they have had four years service out of me. I would say the highlight was definitely the FA Cup win, but I am proud of never having being on the losing side in a derby.”
With his Everton career over, 26-year-old Ferguson looked ahead starting afresh for Gullit and said: “I was settled in Liverpool and now I am going to have to get settled in Newcastle. But that is the life of a footballer I suppose. I know that.
“It is difficult, but I have trained with the players now and you fit in. I have joined another massive club. Newcastle represents my future and I have to start to do my best for them and win over their fans.”
“But I wish the fans I am leaving behind all the best and I hope Everton can get up where they belong because the supporters deserve that. They need to be successful. I will miss them send them my love.”
For many Evertonians, that feeling will be mutual.