Now that Duncan Ferguson has finally been put in charge of the Everton first team, albeit temporarily, it’s natural to wonder what Jim McLean might think of this once unlikely scenario.
The former Dundee United manager used to lament that Ferguson wouldn’t even turn up for games if you sent his wages to his house. He has now been put in caretaker charge of Everton’s multi-million-pound team of underachievers for Saturday's game against Chelsea following Marco Silva's sacking.
Ten years ago, Ferguson was sitting on a beach in Majorca wondering if he’d made the wrong decision to quit the football scene.
He decided he had and went back to Everton, reconciled with David Moyes, who is now back in line for the top job, and coached the kids at the academy for free. Alan Irvine, the then head of the academy and recent candidate for the Hearts manager’s post, told me while I researched my unauthorised biography, In Search of Duncan Ferguson: “He brings the milk bottles in in the morning and puts them out at night.” In other words, he was first in and last out.
Another complaint from McLean now seems wide of the mark. He once observed that while he knew he was too obsessed with the game, the trouble was it “meant f*ck all" to Ferguson. His prodigious talent permitted him to coast.
But he’s earned his chance this time. No one can doubt that. He's supported a succession of managers, from Moyes to Silva, via Ronald Koeman and Sam Allardyce. He’s proved that sometimes, if you want something bad enough, however far-fetched it might seem, it can happen. It's a Fairytale of Finch Farm, Everton's plush training centre.
Ian Ross, Everton's former press officer, told me a story dating back to the end of Ferguson’s playing career, when absolutely no-one foresaw a path into coaching for someone who often seemed so disinterested in the game. He’d been left behind at the club’s old Bellefield training HQ during a tour to America because his previous convictions for assault, and subsequent jail term, created visa problems.
Ross asked him what he was going to do when his playing days were over. “I am going to go away and get my coaching badges,” he told Ross. “I am going to surprise everyone and come back and manage this football club.”
Ross waited until he was what he considered a safe distance from Ferguson – around three miles – before giggling to himself.
It might only be for one game, who knows? But he’s done it. Big Dunc has done it.