This personal analysis of the enigmatic Everton
striker and talisman, Big Dunc, by Guy McEvoy was originally posted to ToffeeNet
back in January 1998.
A PERSONAL ANALYSIS by Guy McEvoy
THE GREAT FERGUSON DEBATE
We all need heroes. In a sorry world where no-one in 'real life' is
whiter than white as newspapers are so quick to expose
we are often left to turn to sporting stars to find our heroes. For
football fans that means footballers. You are lumbered with finding
one from whichever team fate has thrust upon you and for us, that means finding
our heroes from Everton FC.
DUNCAN FERGUSON THE INSTANT HERO
First off, he scored his debut goal in a derby. That is a serious way
to endear yourself to Evertonians.
More significantly, he came with 'hard-done-by' baggage. Scousers love the
scally image. He's a lad like a lot of the Everton fan base, from an urban
working class background, who's a bit of a scally and gets very hard done-by
by the law. Three months in prison for an incident the like of which you'll
see countless times in parks up and down the country every Saturday afternoon.
It was injustice in the extreme, the lad can't be all that bad - after all
he keeps pigeons. We all wrote to him in prison, he wrote back to each and
every one of us. I still have the signed Photo on my wall. Again, hero forming
At the same time another crucial component fell into place. 'Go West' by
the Pet Shop Boys (or the Village People to be exact), was just at that moment
catching on as the tune to chant at Football grounds. By an accident of birth
Ferguson's name has the exact right number of syllables to fit the song
perfectly. It is the ideal football chant. Even those who go to one game
a season can learn the words and join in. It sweeps Goodison, sounds fantastic,
is sung all the time and can only add to the expectation from him.
He then, in the midst of a seemingly going nowhere season, scores a crucial
goal against Man United (costing them the title), takes his shirt off swirls
it round head in one of Goodison's most enduring images of the decade.
The merchandise industry builds up around him, every Evertonian with a new
shirt gets 'Ferguson' printed on their back. T-shirts on sale outside the
ground focus on his image in an almost Cantona like fashion.
We wanted, or needed a hero. Put all these chunks together and you get the
'legend' that is Duncan Ferguson. Our hero had come.
FERGUSON THE REALITY
Those of us who's money was draining away to watch this 'legend' started
to make noises of discontent. But the hype machine was too solid behind
him. "All he needs is the right service" I would hear in the pub week
in week out. It got to the point what I was ready to chin the next
person to utter that phrase.
The service on offer didn't seem to be stopping, for instance, Gary Speed
managed a whole ream of headers and goals... And that from midfield! Even
the season before, the supposedly mediocre Graham Stuart scored a bag full
of goals (from various positions Stuart always had to shift to suit
the team not have the team constantly shift to find a way to suit
him like Duncan does). If we got the kind of service that these people seem
to be expecting then we wouldn't need Ferguson. We could just stick
a bloody lamppost in the goal-box and the crosses would be so good they'd
just bounce in off it every time!
He wasn't performing, but it couldn't be his fault could it? He needed
wingers to make him perform. So we had two of the worlds finest wingers:
Limpar and Kanchelskis. But we quickly found that what seems an obvious
recipe for success in your mind doesn't always happen on the pitch. The
idea of these two knocking in crosses all season that he would nod in and
obviously leave us with the championship just never happened.
Despite his under performance no-one at the club dare drop him. The
team was constantly altered in an effort to find a way to accommodate Ferguson.
New players were dropped quickly before they settled because it wasn't
happening for them but Ferguson was on the pitch week after week regardless
of his previous match performances. Players like Amokachi were let
go as they weren't performing with Ferguson. It all had to be geared round
him. Not his fault, he didn't ask for the hype, but he had it. And
whilst we did our all to accommodate him and turn hype into reality, the
football club I love and live for was sinking to the depths of mediocrity
The season-ticket holders finally started to suss it out at the end of last
season. Whilst Ferguson is still the number one name printed on new shirts
when the new kit came out it was apparent that he was no longer the automatic
As a little of the hype has come off him I wonder if it is any coincidence
that this season has seen by far the most consistent good football from him.
He is a good footballer. He's fine on the ground (note 'fine'. He's better
than most non-Evertonians give him credit for, but not as good on the floor
as some vocal blue-tinted Evertonians go on about) and he's obviously very
good in the air. As such, all in, take away the hype and he's an asset
to the team.
I strongly believe though, as one who's watched it happen first hand, over
the last couple of seasons, BECAUSE of the hype that accompanies him and
the effect this has had on managers team selection his presence
BIG DUNC THE VICTIM OF "IMAGE"
Joe Royle famously said "Duncan Ferguson was an Everton legend before he
was ever an Everton player". Prophetic. This season he is finally becoming
an 'Everton player'. In the last game of 1997, against Bolton, he was
simply World Class.
He is again at a cross-roads where he can go one of two ways. He can either
become mediocre again and use that game as the seasonal piece of evidence
(like Man Utd and Liverpool last year) of what he can do to justify his place
in the squad when he under-performs. And we can then drift down to
Or he can strive to put in that amount of effort week after week, we can
then comfortably escape relegation, put in a decent challenge for the cup,
and he'll finally justify the amazing blind faith thousands of us Evertonians
have invested in him over the past three or four years.
For all our sakes I sincerely hope he goes for the latter.
© 1998 Guy McEvoy
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