Scottish Daily Mail
Conor so grateful Big Dunc got his message across
DUNCAN FERGUSON would surely have been grinning broadly if he caught a glimpse of the goal- creating cross Conor Grant delivered last weekend.
A whipped, curling thing of beauty from the left flank, it would have been tailor-made for Ferguson in his Everton heyday.
As it was, Louis Laing did the decent thing by thumping a Big Dunc-esque header into the net to set up a much-needed Motherwell victory.
Grant’s glorious assist was a measure of his schooling at Goodison prior to making a loan move to Fir Park until the end of the season.
That process of educating the 19-year-old midfielder was one in which Ferguson played no small part. The one-time enfant terrible of Scottish football was coach of the Under-18 squad at Everton before being promoted to Roberto Martinez’s first-team staff.
‘When I was in the youth team, my coaches were Kevin Sheedy and Duncan Ferguson (below),’ recalled Grant.
‘I don’t think you really get many better players better at crossing the ball than Kevin — he helped me massively. And Duncan could get on the end of the crosses in training — not a bad combo!
‘Duncan was a hero for me as a kid, so to have him around the place was superb. There are a lot of former Everton players at the club, including Kevin, Duncan and David Unsworth. Joe Royle is also there and they all help.
‘I have seen Duncan lose his temper a few times with the youth team but it’s all part of the game. He wants us to play football the right way and that’s great for younger players.
‘He has an aura about him and he was superb on the training ground with the youth team.
‘He wants us to play out from the back and we had success doing that. Duncan has now stepped up to be with the first team and that’s good to see.’
Royle and Unsworth have already been north to check on Grant’s progress as he seeks to prove he has the tougher edge required for first-team football.
The template has already been set down, as both John Ruddy and Lukas Jutkiewicz previously enjoyed successful loan spells at Fir Park from Everton.
‘I’m aware that players have come up here and done well and I just want to kick on,’ insisted Grant.
‘I hope this gives me a chance to show what I can do — and show I can mix it and play professional football.
‘It was an easy decision. I got the phone call and it was my first chance to go out on l oan and experience a different environment.
‘I have been an Everton season-ticket holder since I was five and I signed for the club at Under-13 level. So this is something new. It’s a good league in Scotland and it is very competitive. You have to give your all and it’s a different situation to Under-21 football.’
Motherwell’s 2-1 success over Inverness was their first win of 2015, although it wasn’t enough to lift them off the foot of the table as St Mirren and Ross County also banked three points.
Ian Baraclough’s side will be anxious to try to develop a revival in today’s home meeting with Kilmarnock, but Grant insists he isn’t feeling the strain of a relegation battle. ‘I haven’t felt any pressure,’ he said. ‘I’ve been allowed to get on with my game. I’m aware it’s a relegation battle but because it’s
my first loan move, then maybe I’ve been allowed to get on with business. It’s not something I think about.’
Another youngster, who has i mpressed i n the f i rst team recently, Don Thomas, has signed a new three - and- a- half year contract with the club.
Meanwhile, Kilmarnock’s Chris Chantler believes temporary transfers from south of the border will become the norm in Scotland.
The f ull- back today f aces a Motherwell side which could field up to five loan signings from English clubs, including Grant.
However, former Manchester City starlet Chantler believes they represent merely the tip of the iceberg, arguing that an increasing number of English clubs will use the Premiership to try out their peripheral players and promising youngsters, claiming that it is a more nurturing environment than Leagues One and Two.
‘Motherwell have brought a few guys up on loan from England and I think it’s good for them,’ he said. ‘I went on loan to English League One, where some teams play football but others don’t.
‘Up here, more sides try to play football, so it’s an easier step to make from the reserve side in England to the top league in Scotland.
‘I can also understand why there would be a desire from Scottish teams to get English reserve players. And, for the parent clubs, their players will experience a better standard and style of play than in the lower leagues in England.’
Killie have yet to lose in four games under interim manager Gary Locke and Chantler is eager to extend that sequence.
‘We’ve been playing well, although we would have liked a few more wins,’ said the 24-year-old. ‘We’ve definitely stepped it up in the past couple of games and I hope we can carry that on.’