THE tears said it all as Duncan Ferguson offered an emotional farewell to Goodison Park in perfect style yesterday.
The fabled Everton hard man broke down and wept on a lap of honour after offering a fairy tale ending to what has been a nightmare season for the club.
Ferguson sported a banner thrown from the crowd at the end, with the message “Thanks for all the memories Dunc”.
In true comic book fashion, after a career spanning 10 years and two spells, he provided a last moment to savour for the fans who have always idolised him.
After another disappointingly impotent performance from David Moyes’ side against relegated West Brom, the big man was offered one last hurrah, as ref Alan Wiley awarded a penalty with seven seconds left.
Mikel Arteta stepped up as if to take the kick, but Phil Neville intervened to demand Ferguson take responsibility.
In keeping with what had gone on before, Tomasz Kuszczak brilliantly saved the penalty, but Big Dunc remained calm enough to stroke in the rebound off the keeper’s prone frame.
Cue pandemonium. For all his injury problems, for all his disciplinary indiscretions, and for all his distinctly ordinary goalscoring record, Ferguson has gone down in Goodison history as one of the legends to sport the number nine shirt, and here was the chance for the faithful to confirm their belief.
They didn’t disappoint. While Moyes insisted no decisions have been made over any player’s future, it is clear the Scotland striker will be leaving, and he received a prolonged tribute as he tearfully paraded the ground with his daughter Evie, and sons Cameron and Ross.
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“I was so pleased he got the last one, and the fans were too. They showed how much they think of him with their ovation at the end, and he did well to put it in after another great save,” said Moyes.
“I’m glad he took it – he wasn’t going to have it because he had cramp in both calves, but I think Phil Neville persuaded him.” West Brom skipper Steve Watson, a former Everton team-mate of Ferguson, added: “It was fitting he scored the last goal in his last game at the club.
“There are not many people like Duncan left in the game anymore, he is a real character.”
It was an important goal too, because it allowed Everton to at least take something from a game they should have strolled through, given the number of opportunities they created.
Kuszczak was the man of the match with a seemingly endless string of classy saves, but Everton were guilty of upwards of six missed chances.
James McFadden missed two sitters, Kevin Kilbane two more, Leon Osman shot over an open goal from four yards and Neville missed an equally easy chance.
Add to that a dozen saves from Kuszczak and a Kilbane header off the bar, and Everton could have reached double figures.
West Brom took the lead with their first attack when the impressive Zoltan Gera brilliantly converted a cross from Jonathan Greening, and Williams Martinez on his full debut added a second with a fine finish from Gera’s flick to Greening’s corner.
Nothing Everton did went right until sub Victor Anichebe suggested he could assume Ferguson’s centre forward mantle with an excellent turn and shot to set up the grand finale.