Post by Everton News. on Feb 10, 2017 10:58:25 GMT
Duncan Ferguson Interview
‘Some players use their name to get a job but I don’t want to cut corners’
Duncan Ferguson insists he is a far mellower coach than he was a player, and is so keen to succeed he worked for free for a year, he tells Paul Joyce
Duncan Ferguson smiles when the subject of his reputation crops up. He listens to the description of himself as a bruiser of a centre forward, a player who would leave opposing defenders quivering in their boots and whose strong-arm approach came to personify the Everton team of their era.
And yet that hard-man image, Ferguson maintains, was only ever put on for show.
“As far as I am concerned I am a big softie,” he says. “Maybe on the field I was a bit different because that’s when you have your war paint on. It was part and parcel of the game, really, and a lot of it gets blown out of proportion. People just like to talk and the story rolls on and rolls on and rolls on. I didn’t see myself as that person.”
Just as unconventional is his reinvention as a coach now, moulding and fine-tuning the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley as part of Everton’s first-team set-up.
Ferguson is one of only a few British coaches in the upper echelons of the Premier League — Arsenal’s Steve Bould and Chelsea’s Steve Holland spring to mind as others — and it is a responsibility that he attacks with all the gusto of one of the trademark headers from his playing career.
At the club’s Finch Farm training headquarters yesterday morning, the 45-year-old first-team coach took the initial session as Ronald Koeman and his brother, Erwin, looked on. The need to engage a group of players who have mustered renewed momentum in their season and are intent on infiltrating the top six again, was uppermost in his mind as he constantly introduced new ideas to motivate them.
“A lot of it comes from my imagination,” says Ferguson, who completed his Uefa Pro Licence in 2014. “Of course, you take ideas from other people but I have a tactics board in my office and I play on that, thinking about sessions and scribbling down things.
“As a coach you are constantly trying to come up with new methods, racking your brain, because you have a responsibility to the players. Keeping them interested and enjoying things is the skill of the job.
“You will tweak things, one day something will work, another day it might not, but it is all about putting on the best session you can.
Ferguson is a valued member of Everton’s coaching staff
“Under the present manager there are less staff than before — there is him, his brother and me — and so there is more work for me to do. He’ll give me free rein at times.
“He has been very good to me and given me responsibility which is helping me progress as a coach. For him to allow me to be so close to him is credit to him. Other managers might not have wanted that.
“What I have noticed is that he can be very clinical with his decision-making. He can change formations and personnel. If the player isn’t doing it, he is coming off. The players here know that. I know the modern-day player is more sensitive than we used to be, but the manager makes strong decisions and for the good of the team.”
His journey serves as validation for the decision to reach out to David Moyes, with whom he had numerous fallouts as a player, and return to Everton in 2011 having grown tired of a life of retirement in Majorca.
The elevated position Ferguson enjoys owes everything to the dedicated graft eschewed by many of his contemporaries. Punditry was never likely to be an option — as much because of his reluctance to give interviews as his impenetrable Scottish accent — but he has found his passion and has become obsessive about it.
BEST THREE DEFENDERS I PLAYED AGAINST
Sami Hyypia He was so big and so good in the air for Liverpool. He wasn’t the quickest, but he read the game brilliantly
Tony Adams A tough, hard, old school defender. There was him, Martin Keown, Gary Pallister and Steve Bruce — players who used to get their head in
Rio Ferdinand From those I have named, he was the best in terms of being a “footballer.” He had a bit of everything. He wasn’t a soft touch either
“I came back and went into the academy system and worked there for years, really learning how to be a coach,” says Ferguson, who attends all of the club’s under-23 matches, while his television at home seldom features anything other than football.
“We used to call it the coalface; every night in the wind and the rain. The first years I didn’t get a salary. I just worked as a coach to make myself better and that was great for my development.
“I took on an apprenticeship, if you like, and worked my way up. I just wanted to learn the hard way. I believe as a coach you cannot cut corners. Some people can go in at a higher level and use their name to get a job and then they are quickly out of a job.
“Don’t get me wrong, just because you put in years of development as a coach doesn’t mean you are going to keep your job longer. But it gives you a greater knowledge of how it operates. My grounding has been second to none.
“I never had an official age group. I would just tag myself on to any coach that would take me that particular night. I would work with under-12s, 14s, 15s, 16s, 18s, so I know the likes of Tom Davies from coming up. He was always rated.
“Eventually, I fell in with Kevin Sheedy with the under-18s. He was unwell for a period and had a hard time. I took over until he came back.”
Everton chairman Bill Kenwright was instrumental in Ferguson being retained by Koeman after Roberto Martínez’s departure last summer. Yet it is clear from speaking to the Dutchman that Ferguson is more than simply a cheerleader, kept on because he has a bond with the supporters who idolised him through two spells at Goodison Park.
“I knew he lives and eats Everton,” says Koeman. “He is the first here in the morning and maybe the last to go out. But nobody stays at a club because they are Mr Everton or Mr Arsenal. He contributes a lot. He is one of the staff.
Ferguson and Hyypia have a disagreement during the Merseyside derby in 2004
“He is improving his experience as a coach. He is involved in the technical stuff and discussions about the players, the team. We have a good understanding and I am really happy with him.”
If Ferguson is tasked with nurturing talent on the training field, then his personal experiences — both good and bad — lend himself to being a sounding board for the modern player.
He had to deal with the pressure of a British transfer record at the age of 22 when moving from Dundee United to Glasgow Rangers for £4 million.
Then, the ignominy of spending 44 days in Glasgow’s notorious Barlinnie Prison for head-butting Raith Rovers’ John McStay in 1994. It was the first time in Scottish legal history that a player had been prosecuted for assault on the field of play. Ferguson became less target man and more a target.
Throw in nine red cards, the towering headers and left-foot drives, the frustration of injury “that took away half of my career” and there is little he cannot pass advice on.
MOST PREMIER LEAGUE GOALS FOR EVERTON Duncan Ferguson 60 Romelu Lukaku 59 Tim Cahill 56 Kevin Campbell 45 Leon Osman 44
“You could say I have been through it all,” he says. “I have been through every step and as you get older you get more experienced and you draw on those things in your life. You change. Everybody changes surely? You mature.”
What has stayed the same is the pain of defeat for Everton. “What I have noticed is that the feeling of losing when you are a coach is terrible,” adds Ferguson. “Unbelievable. I never thought it would be as bad. As a player you are affected, but as a coach you can feel helpless.
“At Chelsea earlier in the season [Everton lost 5-0] you want the ground to swallow you up. Even when you are winning, the highs are short-lived, very short-lived.
“You win, you’re knackered and you sit down and take it all in, and then five minutes later you are thinking about the next session, the next game, the next result.
“Coaching and managing at this level is all about winning games and surviving. We live with that week to week, month to month. It is not easy.”
Today, for all that hard work, he stands at the point where he faces being expunged from Everton’s record books as the club’s leading Premier League scorer. Ferguson struck 60 times; Lukaku moved to 59 with his four-goal haul against Bournemouth last weekend.
“Someone said to me that Rom was getting closer to my record of goals and I didn’t even know what it was,” Ferguson laughs. “No one tells you about the record until someone is about to beat it. The quicker he does it the better. Rom is a goal machine and hopefully he scores a couple of hundred for us in the next ten years. We are working with him every day, but we are just there to facilitate him, massage him. He is top drawer. He can finish off his right and his left. He maybe needs to improve his heading, but he is one of the best I have seen.”
It is Ferguson’s own aerial prowess that Evertonians remember more than the tales of “Duncan disorderly” and the like. “I don’t know what the majority of people think about me, but I know what 35,000 Evertonians think each week,” he adds. “That is what I live for. After my family, they’re the most important thing to me.”
Have met him a few times over his career. First met big Dunc when he was coming through at Dundee Utd and last met him just last year outside Goodison. He's never changed in the slightest. Always full of passion whether playing or coaching, he's always been an absolute gentleman whenever I've met him and can also bring a smile to those who in his company. Great to see him doing well as a coach under Koeman, I personally feel he's a big part of Romelu's development as a player this current season.