It was former Everton striker and manager Joe Royle who hit the nail on the head when he said Duncan Ferguson became a legend at Everton before he became a player. It's true that Ferguson never really realised his enormous potential, mainly due to bad luck with injuries, but his status as an Everton legend is secure thanks to his full blooded approach, his love for the club and his handy knack of scoring against Liverpool....
Ferguson signed for the club initially on loan in the autumn of 1994 with the club rooted to the bottom of the table. Manager Mike Walker, statistically one of the worst managers to work at the club, was inevitably sacked in the November and replaced by Joe Royle. His first match? Liverpool at Goodison Park.
Liverpool came into the game riding high in the table while Everton had only won one game all season. But the Toffees were reinvigorated under Royle and battled their way to a famous win – with Ferguson scoring his first goal for the club.
Ferguson soon became a permanent Everton player, sealing a £4.5million transfer from Rangers and became a talisman for the side as they battled successfully against relegation. Another headed goal against then Champions Manchester United the following February, complete with shirt twirling celebration that showed off an Everton tattoo, sealed his status as an Toffees hero.
Ferguson also played a key role in the club’s run to Wembley and the FA Cup final, though he would be restricted to a subs role in the 1-0 win over Man Utd due to injury.
One of Fergusons strengths and indeed weaknesses was his temper. He infamously spent time in a Scottish prison for head butting a player during a Rangers game (that extremely harsh punishment by the Scottish FA led to Ferguson retiring from international football).
He played with a fire and passion that on his day he was impossible to play against. But he also got frustrated easily and was sent off a record nine times – many of those for violent conduct. The ‘best’ of those came in 2004 when he throttled Leicester’s Steffen Freund – the image of which has now been emblazoned on a T-shirt!!!
Freund isn’t alone though – Ferguson also managed to fight two robbers who broke into his home, managing to pin one down on the floor until police arrived! The world’ dumbest criminals or what?!
Sadly for ‘Big Dunc’ he played in an era containing some of the poorest sides in the club’s history! Consistently fighting relegation the side lacked quality and all too often the ball was hoofed forward towards Ferguson’s head in the desperate hope something would happen.
Ironically though it was because of Everton’s struggles Ferguson became so revered. When you watch a side playing poorly the least you want to see is someone fighting for the shirt. Ferguson displayed the same passion as the fans in the stands, especially when he scored.
In December 1997 with Everton again at the wrong end of the table manager Howard Kendall gave Ferguson the captains armband for a game against Bolton. Dunc promptly scored a hat-trick. He loved the club and the fans and they loved him. That mutual appreciation still stands today and often hides the fact he missed far too many game through injury.
He certainly isn’t the best striker to pull on an Everton shirt but he is one of the most influential. Plus there are not too many players who openly display their Everton tattoo when they score a goal!!
For that he deserves to be seen as an Everton legend.
Why do we love big Dunc? These YouTube clips will tell you why: