Duncan Ferguson ends feud by joining SFA coaching course

THIRTEEN years after he stopped playing for Scotland because of the way he was treated by the Scottish Football Association, Duncan Ferguson will make his return to his native country this weekend - to begin a coaching course run by the SFA.

• Duncan Ferguson: Controversial striker seeks Uefa badge in Largs

Ferguson, once valued at 7 million, has paid the 975 fee to enrol on one of the SFA's much-vaunted courses as he aims to obtain a Uefa Basic Licence badge. The qualification is required by all those wishing to coach football at a serious level, and is the first rung on a ladder climbed by the likes of Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho. It is understood Ferguson hopes to establish a soccer academy in Majorca, where he has lived since retiring from the game with Everton in 2006.

Less than a fortnight ago the 39-year-old was back on Merseyside to receive an "Everton Giant" award from fellow Scots David Weir and Alan Irvine.

"People should be big enough not to bear grudges," said Irvine, who played with Ferguson at Dundee United and later coached him at Newcastle and Everton. "That's clearly been the case here, both on Duncan and the SFA's part. It's a big step."

Ferguson will join more than 30 budding coaches, including Paul Hartley and Barry Nicholson, when he arrives for a debrief on Saturday morning at Largs, where he will spend the following nine days. He will need to also attend two further one-day tutorials in order to qualify for his B Licence badge.

The major surprise is that Ferguson has chosen to study under the auspices of the SFA and in Largs, the Ayrshire coastal town that was once the by-word for high jinks among Scottish footballers. Ferguson's own brushes with authority saw him earn a reputation as a wayward player when he first broke through at Dundee United in the early Nineties. His nine red cards in the English Premier League was also once a record shared with Patrick Veira. But his most significant act of ill-discipline saw him land a three-month sentence in jail.

In 1995 Ferguson was found guilty of assault, after the then Rangers player head-butted Raith Rovers defender Jock McStay while already on probation for a previous conviction for common law assault. In becoming the first professional to be jailed for an on-field assault Ferguson made an unwanted piece of history.

He served 44 days in Barlinnie prison in Glasgow. On his release Ferguson was incensed when the SFA insisted that he then served what remained of a 12-match ban imposed by the governing body. Ferguson, who by then had moved to England with Everton, saw this ban overturned after his new club sought a judicial review.

But his resentment at the SFA's actions lingered and, although he played twice more for Scotland - goalless draws against Estonia and Austria - he went into international exile in 1998 after just seven caps and no goals.

Ferguson concentrated on playing club football, and although his enduring passion was for Everton - he has a club crest tattoo - he was signed by Newcastle manager Ruud Gullit in 1998, for 7 million. Within 17 months he was back at Goodison Park, after Walter Smith bought him for a second time. The then Rangers manager had paid out a record fee between two British clubs when signing him for 4 million from Dundee United in 1993.

Craig Brown, who worked with Ferguson both at under 21 and full international level, yesterday described him as an "ideal guy to be a coach". He also stated that he had some sympathy with Ferguson's decision to walk away from Scotland.

The Aberdeen manager added: "I am not deluded - I know he wasn't everyone's cup of tea. But I got on well with him. He wasn't a student of the game, but he played under students of the game. You can't play under Jim McLean and Walter Smith and not pick up quite a bit.

"He did have an issue with the SFA. There were some incidents you could not condone but, in those particular circumstances, it was over a point of principle and I think he had a point."