There has been no outcry and he has not, to date, been locked up in Prince Rupert’s Tower, the Georgian structure depicted on the Everton club crest. In contrast to some, Duncan Ferguson has no cause to regret consenting to a rare interview in recent days.
There are other differences between big Dunc and the Duke. The former has served time, for example. He also came across very well when submitting to a grilling from Everton fans’ channel Toffee TV earlier this week and which has now been posted on YouTube.
It runs for nearly 90 minutes, longer than the injury-prone striker was often able to last during games. Ferguson has an interesting theory as to why that was. “I broke my big toe in a fight in a pub called The Rock in Menzieshill in Dundee,” he recalls. “It never got fixed! To this day, I think everything [has] come from that bloody big toe…”
It is 25 years since he signed on loan for Everton from Rangers, wearing what he swears was an orange blazer, but which looked suspiciously like red. “Like someone turning up in a green suit to sign for Rangers,” a Liverpool-based reporter who attended the press conference once memorably told me.
Having spent years chronicling his life for an unauthorised book published five years ago, it felt emotional to hear him open up in this way. He’s done interviews before, but never, to my knowledge, one quite like this.
It still feels somewhat novel to hear him speak and realise that, despite it now being more than a quarter of a century since he lived in Scotland, he retains his broad Bannockburn brogue.
At one stage he even got up to display the scar running down the back of his leg after clearly extreme treatment for a sciatic nerve problem. As he pulled down his tracksuit bottoms ever further, there was a danger he was going to expose even more than we bargained for.
It really does feel like Duncan Ferguson “uncovered”. And of course, because he was in his “Tartan Trappist Monk” phase, to employ journalist Phil McNulty’s phrase, part of me was initially resentful that he was now singing like a canary – or should that be a pigeon?
There were multiple fascinating revelations. He backed off from taking penalties until later in his Everton career having missed one for Dundee United. He just assumed he wasn’t any good at them when he was – very.
David Moyes wanted to recruit him to fulfil what Ferguson described as a “Kenny Dalglish role” at Everton, where he would turn up on doorsteps to help convince a budding player to sign for the Goodison Park club. I am not sure many would have disobeyed this instruction.
But first Moyes had to mend their broken relationship. It was a relief to hear Ferguson recount details of the sour way he left Everton for a second time, effectively ending his career. I included the episode in my book and while I felt confident in my research, there were only two people in the room that afternoon who knew what happened.
Ferguson recalls bursting into Moyes’ office “with steam coming oot ma ears” having been reduced to standing in a queue outside with all the youngsters who were being told they were being released. It does seem a strange way to treat a club icon.
A day earlier he had scored with what turned out to be his last touch in professional football to secure a 2-2 draw v West Brom. There was no word from Everton about a new contract so while he had done a lap of honour with his kids, there was still uncertainty in the air. Ferguson wasn’t amused. When Moyes extended his hand to say goodbye, Ferguson left it hanging.
No sooner was he out the door than he regretted it. “He was man enough to do that, I was not man enough to shake it,” he recalls. “I like to think I am a man myself. I should have shaken it.”
The two Everton presenters, Barry Cass and Peter McPartland, do an excellent job of teasing all this out of Ferguson but they have their own agenda to pursue, rightly so. There are times when he seemed ready to open up about such hugely controversial issues as his spell in Barlinnie and the reason he was sent there. But the conversation is swiftly switched back to talk of the Toffees – understandably, given the channel’s name.
He does say as much as he ever has in public about the headbutt that sealed his Barlinnie fate. As for prison time itself, he reveals he grew a beard. “You have to look tough when you go intae one o’ those hotels up there,” he explains.
There is other, more knockabout stuff as well as an attempt to chronicle how it all began. “My debut was against Rangers at Ibrox, I came on as sub,” he says. “And then I think we played like East Stirling in the cup, that was my first senior goal.”
Despite one of the interviewers assuring him he was 17, he wasn’t – he was 18, weeks away from turning 19. Ferguson is right about his bow coming at Ibrox, but, remarkably, he’s wrong about who he scored his first senior goal against. In a week when fact checking is topical, let me help.
It was January 1991, a Scottish Cup replay against East Fife. He steered a left-footed shot under goalkeeper Ray Charles to put his side 2-1 up. I can point him towards a book about his career so he gets such important details right in future.