Ferguson out to spark Everton in 2nd spell as interim boss
He spun ball boys in the air after goals, substituted a substitute who had been on the field barely 18 minutes, and was unbeaten in Premier League matches against Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal to lift his team out of the relegation zone.
To say Duncan Ferguson's first spell in temporary charge of Everton — in December 2019 after the firing of Marco Silva — was entertaining would probably be an understatement.
Two years later, the man with one of the most fearsome reputations in British soccer has been summoned again during an emergency at Goodison Park, tasked once more with shaking up an out-of-form Everton side increasingly threatened by relegation and looking for yet another permanent manager.
Ferguson was never going to say no. After all, he sees himself as a candidate for the job as the full-time replacement for the fired Rafa Benitez, even if Wayne Rooney, Roberto Martinez and Frank Lampard are bigger names being linked with the position.
Leading Everton to a win over Aston Villa on Saturday in his first game back as caretaker manager won't harm Ferguson’s chances of getting the job. He and the players shouldn't be short of motivation, either.
After all, heading to Goodison Park with Villa are two former Liverpool players — manager Steven Gerrard and recently signed playmaker Philippe Coutinho — who are sure to get a hostile reception from a home crowd that could be whipped into a frenzy by Ferguson.
Then there's Lucas Digne, the France left back who joined Villa from Everton last week after falling out with Benitez and asking for a move away. The quirk of the schedule means Digne is making an immediate return to the club where he spent 3½ years, and the welcome he receives by Everton fans will be interesting given his parting statement suggested he never actually wanted to leave.
It makes the match between the league's 13th-placed (Villa) and 16th-placed (Everton) teams stand out more than it typically would, and Ferguson's presence on the touchline could be a deciding factor.
As a player, "Duncan Disorderly," as he was sometimes called, was an aggressive, no-nonsense striker who collected eight red cards in the Premier League — still tied for the record — across stints at Everton and Newcastle and was even handed a three-month prison sentence for head-butting an opponent in 1994, when he was at Scottish club Rangers.
And he showed no mercy, either, during that two-week period as Everton's stand-in manager at the end of 2019 when he chose to substitute Moise Kean against Manchester United at Old Trafford, 18 minutes after introducing the Italy striker from the bench in the 70th.
"I needed to make a change to kill a bit of time," Ferguson said at the time about his ruthless call that, for many players, is the ultimate indignity.
If that backed up Ferguson's reputation as someone who shouldn't be messed with, then his passionate and touching celebrations after goals against Chelsea in his first game in charge — which Everton won 3-1 against the odds — showed another side to him.
Racing down the touchline following second-half goals by Dominic Calvert-Lewin, he picked up two ball boys, on separate occasions, and twirled them around.
Ferguson said he was so excited about getting the chance to lead Everton that he couldn't sleep the night before that Chelsea game. His emotions came out during the 90 minutes, firing up the supporters and his players, and that is something the current Everton team needs as it seeks just a second win in any competition since the end of September.
Six points from a possible 39 in its last 13 games has plunged Everton to within six points of the bottom three. With relegation a scenario Everton's board simply couldn't countenance ahead of the club's planned move to a new stadium for the 2024-25 season, Benitez was swiftly fired.
The 50-year-old Scot has gotten another chance to stake his claim for a first senior managerial position on a permanent basis, at the club where he spent the majority of his controversial career.
Even if they lose again, don't be surprised to see a more hard-working display from Everton's players against Villa.
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Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80