Duncan Ferguson: Everton legend to find a world beyond the Wirral - but mystery surrounds next destination

The last time Duncan Ferguson walked out of Everton, he refused the offer of a handshake from David Moyes and turned his back on football for several years.

Ferguson will forever be revered by the blue half of Merseyside.
Ferguson will forever be revered by the blue half of Merseyside.

It says much about his new-found drive and commitment that his latest exit from his beloved club is born of a desire to better himself.

In a seven-minute interview, entitled “the farewell interview”, uploaded on Everton’s website on Monday, a dapper-looking Ferguson spoke about wanting to pursue his managerial ambitions. “I need to do it,” he said. “I need to take the next step.”

Unlike the wrist watch gifted to him by Howard Kendall’s widow Lily that had stopped at quarter past eight and which he wore when taking caretaker charge of the team, time cannot stand still. There is a world beyond the Wirral.

This time last year, Ferguson was overlooked for the Everton job for Rafael Benitez - a Liverpool legend.

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His prospects certainly seem a lot brighter than they did in May 2006 when he cut such a sullen figure after being told by Moyes he was not being offered another contract.

He had scored just once in another injury and suspension-interrupted season. That goal, his last of 72 in a blue shirt, was scored with his final touch of his career, after his scuffed penalty was saved by West Bromwich Albion keeper Tomasz Kuszczak. Ferguson managed to convert the rebound for a 2-2 draw.

Early the following week, Moyes gave the then 34-year-old the bad news. He was out after ten years and two different spells at the club.

The manager offered him his hand. An offended Ferguson, who later admitted he was bereft of ideas about what to do next, rejected Moyes’ handshake and was next spotted in Majorca, where he moved with his family.

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Duncan Ferguson said an emotional farewell to Everton in a club interview.

Little was heard of him for five years, although he did make a rare return to be inducted as an Everton Giant at a swanky do before, remarkably, pitching up in a tracksuit in Largs to begin an SFA-run B license coaching course alongside the likes of Paul Hartley.

His surprise willingness to re-start his football career as a coach meant having to put to one side resentment felt at the part the SFA played in his prison sentence for head-butting Jock McStay when with Rangers and the 12-game ban they sought to impose even after he was released.

More pride had to be swallowed with regards to Moyes. He visited him to apologise in the summer of 2011. They belatedly shook hands and Moyes invited him to begin his coaching career.

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Eleven years later, Ferguson has emerged as a super-qualified coach but frustrated manager. His decision to leave Everton seems to have been triggered by a realisation – some fear it’s too late – that he was never going to be given the permanent post as manager without proving himself elsewhere. Now the speculation begins. If not at Everton, where does Duncan Ferguson earn his managerial spurs?

When he left Goodison Park as a player that final time, he did have options. Bradford City were one credited with an interest. “With all due respect,” noted former Everton striker Graeme Sharp in his autobiography, “Duncan just isn’t a Bradford player.”

Is he a Bradford manager? Or the manager at a club of similar standing? The Bantams are currently in League Two, the fourth tier of English football. Even though he was heavily linked with a move to Blackburn Rovers earlier this summer, bookmakers Betfred believe the third tier is Ferguson’s most likely destination.

He is priced at 5/2 for any English League One club. He is 10/1 to replace Giovanni van Bronckhorst at Rangers, 14/1 to go to Hearts and 20/1 to be Scotland’s next manager, although a return north of the border seems fanciful given events of the past.

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It also is hard to imagine Ferguson slumming it around in the lower reaches of English football but that might be how it needs to be. He wasn’t afraid to start at the bottom at the Everton academy, where he started work – initially unpaid – with the Under-12s. “I did it the hard way,” he repeats a couple of times in the farewell interview. “I’ve no’ cut corners.”

Ferguson will turn 51 halfway through the coming season. His bete noire at first club Dundee United, Jim McLean, retired from management aged only 55. Not many managerial careers start after 50.

But that shouldn’t count against Ferguson, who must have learned so much from working with a succession of top class managers, including Roberto Martinez and Carlo Ancelotti.

Not one of them felt the need to oust him – or were emboldened enough to consider calling time on Ferguson’s love affair with the club.

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It dawned on the Scot that he had to be the one who severed ties, otherwise it might never happen. He risked wandering the corridors at Finch Farm in limbo forever because, it seemed, no new manager had the balls to let him go and Everton did not have the balls to appoint him permanent manager, as they surely should have done last summer rather than turn to Rafa Benitez.

It’s understood Bill Kenwright, the Everton chairman, was heavily in favour of naming Ferguson manager but owner Farhad Moshiri pushed for the unpopular Benitez.

This might be when it struck Ferguson that his chance will probably never come if a Liverpool legend, albeit one with an impressive CV, is being preferred over someone with his Evertonian credentials.

He has surely earned his chance – at Everton or elsewhere. Now, of course, it will have to be elsewhere, although it seems inconceivable that he won’t return to Everton again in some capacity.

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He admits being anguished as recently as last weekend, when, after attending an Everton in the Community dinner, he panicked: “My god, I cannae give this up!”

But he can and he has – for now. Now it gets interesting. Save me a place in the front row for his managerial unveiling, wherever that may be.