Dun­can Fer­gu­son’s new path

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - CONTENTS -

WHEN I first saw Big Dunc in the flesh, he was even big­ger and brawnier than I had imag­ined. A Scouser mate had waxed lyri­cal to me about this six foot four lump of gran­ite as we once made a slightly hazy jour­ney through the drink­ing holes of Wavertree.

I didn’t re­mem­ber much from that night but his love for Dun­can Fer­gu­son stayed with me.

To be fair, I saw him in the early noughties, after his sec­ond com­ing to Good­i­son, and so Big Dunc’s back-story was al­ready writ large: his record break­ing trans­fer fee when he joined Rangers, his sub­se­quent fail­ure, his many off-field scrapes but the most in­fa­mous, and shame­ful be­ing an on-field one in­volv­ing Jock McS­tay, and his own sub­se­quent stay at her Majesty’s plea­sure.

Fer­gu­son was like a throw-back to the days when Joe Jor­dan’s tooth­less snarl would be the per­vad­ing image from Match of the Day.

Dunc wasn’t just big; he was big and tough. We’ve all watched great, strap­ping strik­ers who would crash dra­mat­i­cally to the ground when brushed against by wingers with all the phys­i­cal­ity of Charles Hawtrey. But that wasn’t re­ally Dunc’s style.

When I fi­nally saw him live Fer­gu­son was just on the wane; for a start he was in­jured more of­ten than he was fit. He was strong yet his body was in­creas­ingly brit­tle.

On his day, though, he was a world-class for­ward; com­bat­ive, di­rect and a ter­ri­ble hand­ful for any cen­tre-back. The mem­ory of Big Dunc ag­gres­sively wrestling United’s Jaap Stam (a fear­some look­ing fella him­self) to the ground re­mains vivid to this day. Premier League de­fend­ers earned their salaries the day Dun­can came to town.

In­juries, cou­pled with his £34,000-a-week salary, marked him out as a pretty mixed sign­ing for Ever­ton the sec­ond time around.

Dunc’s dis­ci­plinary record was also wretched, yet there is a fine line be­tween be­com­ing a cult hero, as he did at Ever­ton, and what­ever sta­tus the likes of Joey Bar­ton oc­cupy at most of their ex-clubs.

His ca­reer pe­tered out and he dis­ap­peared to Ma­jorca for years of self-im­posed ex­ile. At some point, per­haps with toes dipped in a pool, Dunc seems to have had an epiphany.

He made ap­proaches to Ever­ton, started work­ing at the club’s academy and slowly be­gan ac­cu­mu­lat­ing his coach­ing badges.

Now, sev­eral years later, Big Dunc finds him­self part of the Ever­ton es­tab­lish­ment as first team coach. This pri­vate, even tac­i­turn, fig­ure has been trans­formed into an ef­fec­tive men­tor and mo­ti­va­tor.

Romelu Lukaku, now bang­ing them in for Manchester United after his lu­cra­tive move away from Good­i­son Park this sum­mer, openly praised the part Fer­gu­son played in spurring him on and help­ing him add ex­tra el­e­ments to his game.

Of course Lukaku’s de­par­ture came the day after an­other no­table sec­ond com­ing – that of Wayne Rooney back to his boy­hood club. Big Dunc’s role in this trans­fer shouldn’t be

un­der­es­ti­mated. Rooney could eas­ily have fol­lowed Frank Lam­pard and Steven Gerrard to the MLS or Car­los Tevez to the Chinese Su­per League, pick­ing up a mind-bog­gling salary but, to his credit, he in­stead went home to the team where it all be­gan and demon­strated that, at just 31, he still has un­fin­ished busi­ness.

Rooney had been off the boil for a while prior to his de­par­ture from United and per­haps his sen­sa­tional emer­gence at just 16 years of age has caught up with him. This sea­son will de­ter­mine that. Ever­ton are tak­ing quite a gam­ble not only on how they utilise Rooney’s abil­i­ties but also whether he can truly rekin­dle his former great­ness.

Al­most in­evitably, Wayne’s Ever­ton re­turn started in clas­sic Roy of the Rovers style with a goal in his Premier League opener against Stoke be­fore his much rel­ished strike at the Eti­had against peren­nial foes Man City.

Like­wise, Ever­ton started the sea­son promis­ingly enough, go­ing un­beaten in their first six com­pet­i­tive fix­tures.

But since then both Rooney, on and off the pitch, and the Tof­fees have rather lost their way.

Ever­ton dipped into the bot­tom three fol­low­ing their Septem­ber thump­ing at Old Traf­ford, while Rooney’s per­for­mance in the 3-0 home de­feat to Ata­lanta in the Europa League was er­ratic at best.

As things stand, the de­bate about where Ever­ton play him re­mains un­re­solved and the worry will be that the likes of the re­ju­ve­nated Ou­mar Ni­asse, along with the re­turn of longterm in­jury ca­su­al­ties like Yan­nick Bo­lasie and, of course, the un­set­tled Ross Barkley, will only make it harder to ac­com­mo­date a be­low­par Rooney.

But if any­one can get Wayne’s mojo fir­ing again, then surely it’s a former striker who, as a young school­boy, he idolised. Dun­can Fer­gu­son’s finest years in an Ever­ton shirt co­in­cided with Rooney be­ing an im­pres­sion­able 11-12 year-old.

Of course, they even played to­gether a few times, form­ing a front three with To­masz Radzin­ski in a goal­less Mersey­side derby at An­field to­wards the end of Dunc’s ca­reer, but they never struck up a mean­ing­ful part­ner­ship up front - Fer­gu­son’s in­juries and Rooney’s im­mi­nent trans­fer saw to that.

Wayne was born an Ever­to­nian and Big Dunc has de­vel­oped such an at­tach­ment to the club, he has tat­tooed that al­le­giance upon his per­son.

Rooney’s con­sid­er­able re­spect for Fer­gu­son meant that he donned the blue shirt for the first time in many years, when still Manchester United cap­tain, to take part in Dunc’s tes­ti­mo­nial in 2015 and it was here the seed was surely sown for Wayne’s even­tual move home. Ru­mour has it Fer­gu­son had been eye­ing Rooney’s re­turn for many a month be­fore it fi­nally hap­pened this past sum­mer.

Ron­ald Koe­man has re­cently, and deftly, man­aged to pledge his loy­alty to Ever­ton at the same time as alert the foot­balling world of his con­sid­er­able am­bi­tion to one day man­age on a loftier stage.

Clearly, Koe­man does not plan on be­ing at Good­i­son Park for the long-term. How­ever, if Ever­ton con­tinue to flirt with the bot­tom three, his ten­ure might be even shorter than he en­vis­aged.

In the mean­time, Big Dunc con­tin­ues to grow in stature, and in in­flu­ence, as part of the man­age­ment team.

As a player who had truly been around the block and ex­pe­ri­enced all man­ner of highs and lows in his ca­reer, he has much to of­fer sea­soned pros and prodi­giously tal­ented ty­ros alike.

The late Howard Kendall ap­par­ently saw fu­ture man­ager ma­te­rial in him.

So one day, per­haps, Fer­gu­son might get the chance to em­u­late his il­lus­tri­ous name­sake who ran the show for so many years down the M62 at Old Traf­ford.

There can’t be too many coaches whose “hair dryer” treat­ment might outdo Sir Alex’s, but Big Dunc’s might be one.

Things sel­dom work out per­fectly but if they do, then Dun­can Fer­gu­son might yet be­come Ever­ton’s very own Fergie.


Dou­ble act: Dun­can Fer­gu­son, left, and Wayne Rooney

Jump start: Dun­can Fer­gu­son cel­e­brates scor­ing for Ever­ton against Man Utd

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