Jailed for a headbutt, Everton legend Duncan Ferguson chased burglars, rattled Man United, was idolised by Wayne Rooney and is still inspiring
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp got a big warning after their defeat to Everton in the Merseyside derby last weekend when he was spotted having a row with Duncan Ferguson.
“He picked on the wrong man,” said ex-Arsenal star Perry Groves. “The one person you don’t pick on is big Dunc! Do you know what I mean?”
“He chases house breakers and robbers over back gardens for about four miles,” he added, referencing the occasions in 2001 and 2003 when the former Everton striker restrained two burglars attempting to steal from his home.
“You just don’t pick on Big Dunc.”
We couldn’t put it better ourselves. His reputation, despite his reinvention as a seemingly mild-mannered assistant to Carlo Ancelotti at Goodison Park, precedes him.
Ferguson may now be approaching his 50th birthday, but his days as a tearaway forward with the alliterative nicknames ‘Deadly Dunc’ and ‘Duncan Disorderly’ remain long in the memory.
He struck fear into opponents – just ask Jimmy Bullard – and even his own teammates.
The fact the ex-Scotland international only managed to play seven times for his nation, despite being touted as someone who could have been one of their best, came down to his habit of committing misdemeanours.
The headbutt he planted on Jock McStay in 1994 while playing for Rangers may not have earned him a red card – or even a yellow for that matter – but it earned him a 44-day spell in Barlinnie prison in 1995 – while on the books of Everton.
At the age of just 23 he was the first British footballer to be jailed for an on-pitch incident, although he still believes he shouldn’t have been locked up.
He told Everton fans’ channel Toffee TV in 2019: “It was wrong me being there, it wasn’t fair. I shouldn’t have been in there and I think a lot of people understood that.
“It’s not as if I was in for doing anything bad really. My God, it was nothing.”
And it was what he felt was a lack of support from the Scottish Football Association – who suspended him for 12 matches – that led to him retiring from international duty in 1997.
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Instead, Ferguson became a hero on Gladys Street – and it was supporters south of the border who helped him during his toughest time.
“The fans got me through it, a lot of them wrote to me,” he added. “It was unbelievable all the letters and the support that I got.
“I got all the letters when I was in there and obviously you have got a lot of time on your hands when you’re in there to read through them all.
“It definitely gets you through it and you never forget those things.”
He was adamant he would repay their faith in him from then on.
He did have a one-and-a-half year spell with Newcastle from 1998 to 2000, signing for Ruud Gullit, who declared he had wanted him at Chelsea too, in an £8million deal.
That, though, despite a two-goal debut against Wimbledon, would end in a return to Goodison Park for less than half the price after injuries disrupted his time at St James’ Park.
One showing for the Magpies in a 3-0 win over Manchester United did leave an impression though, with Sir Bobby Robson claiming Jaap Stam won’t have faced a tougher test – even in the Champions League.
While Kieron Dyer claimed the fury of Ferguson was enough to make Alessandro Pistone cry, while begging for mercy.
Everton was a home-from-home, though, and where the best moments of his career were.
He moved to Merseyside in 1994 on the back of previously breaking Alan Shearer’s British transfer record when he moved between Dundee United and Rangers in 1993.
Some in his homeland regarded him as a player with the potential to be as good as ex-Toffee Andy Gray but concerns about his love for the game dogged him.
As a youth it was claimed he was more interested in his pigeons than his football.
In his first campaign with Everton, he saw an initial loan made permanent, and his seven Premier League strikes in 1994/95 helped them avoid relegation.
Not only that, he aided them in their run to the FA Cup final, which they won by beating Manchester United at Wembley.
His second campaign, disrupted by jail and injury, was followed by two impressive years with double-figure goal tallies, while he became the first player in Premier League history to score a hat-trick of headers, in a 3-2 win over Bolton in December 1997.
Upon his return from Newcastle, injuries restricted him making an impact for the first three years, but slowly he was able to be a fruitful presence, if not a prolific one under Walter Smith, who signed him on two occasions, and David Moyes.
Some branded him a waste of money on account of his £34,000 a week wages – fairly hefty at the time – especially as he continued to rack up red cards.
He elbowed Bolton’s Kostas Konstantinidis in 2002, and Charlton’s Hermann Hreidarsson in 2004 – the same year he throttled Steffen Freund after being given his marching orders against Leicester – before punching WIgan ace Paul Scharner in 2006, which set off a fracas and earned him a seven-match ban.
He ended his playing career with a joint-record eight red cards, alongside Richard Dunne and Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira but shunned the limelight and moved to Mallorca.
One of his legacies was Wayne Rooney, whom he remembers having a spar with during training.
“We were in the gym lifting weights. It was an off-the-cuff thing and I have to say he was a handy fighter.
“I remember getting punched right in the forehead by him. He was wearing the right glove and I was the one hiding away.
“We only did it once – I never wanted to do it again. Like I say, he was handy.”
Rooney idolised Ferguson and got pictures with his hero as a youngster, while the future England and Manchester United legend was one of those Toffees fans who wrote to the Scot while he was in jail.
Now Ferguson is back again and inspiring more Everton players as Ancelotti’s assistant, having worked his way up through the ranks at Finch Farm.
He even had a caretaker spell after Marco Silva was sacked in 2019 and leading his side to a 3-1 win over Chelsea.
Two-goal hero Dominic Calvert-Lewin praised Ferguson after the match, thanking him for sticking by him with the pair forming a close bond over the three years they had known each other.
Meanwhile, Ferguson celebrated his striker’s second by hugging a ball boy – he’s not all elbows and red cards.
Now he’s Ancelotti’s assistant, an Everton hero giving his all to the club he loves.