Temporary manager Duncan Ferguson wells up as he sweats on Everton future

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<span>Photograph: Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

It was an incongruous sight and a press conference to shatter preconceptions. There sat Duncan Ferguson, fearsome slayer of Pascal Chimbonda, Fredi Bobic and Steffen Freund to select just a few who regretted upsetting the former Everton centre-forward during his playing days, nervous and emotional as he joked with the media he once loathed.

Several times he choked up while discussing his promotion to Everton temporary manager following Marco Silva’s dismissal: once when recalling the reaction of his children, season ticket holders in the lower Gwladys Street; again when detailing how he was handed the job; and finally when asked about Everton’s alarming slide into the relegation zone, a regression he has been charged with arresting against Chelsea on Saturday.

“It is devastating, isn’t it?” said Ferguson, eyes welling up and voice cracking. “I have been here a very long time and it really hurts you.” Does it hurt Everton’s underachieving players just the same? “Is that possible?” he replied. “We all hope it is. That is the kind of message we gave the players this morning. We have to bleed for this club. We have to bleed on that pitch.”

Ferguson’s will be the sixth different voice Everton players have heard in the technical area since Farhad Moshiri started his calamitous ownership less than four years ago. Roberto Martínez, Ronald Koeman, David Unsworth, Sam Allardyce and now Silva have gone since the arrival of the British-Iranian billionaire whose largesse cannot be faulted but whose decisions as Everton’s majority shareholder, and the advice he has continued to follow from a few influential agents, are open to ridicule.

Moshiri addressed the first team squad at Everton’s training ground on Thursday, shortly before deciding to sack Silva against the advice of the director of football, Marcel Brands. Rather than a dressing down, the players who produced such a gutless defensive display at Liverpool the night before were asked what Everton’s board could do to help. Little was said in response.

A manager to galvanise and improve them would be a start. The search has started, with the chairman, Bill Kenwright, advocating a return for David Moyes and Moshiri listening to representatives touting Vítor Pereira of Shanghai SIPG, who was overlooked for the Everton job when Moyes left in 2013.

Duncan Ferguson throttles Leicester City&#x002019;s Steffen Freund after being sent off in March 2004.
Duncan Ferguson throttles Leicester City’s Steffen Freund after being sent off in March 2004. Photograph: Darren Staples/Reuters

The decision should surely be left to Brands. Moyes’s prospects may recede the longer the search takes. But time is not on the side of a club that has squandered more than £450m under Moshiri on staggeringly average players and finds itself third from bottom of the Premier League. It falls on Ferguson to start the salvage operation.

“I’ve not slept,” said Ferguson, who was appointed Everton first-team coach by Martínez. He will be assisted by John Ebbrell, Francis Jeffers and Alan Kelly. “It was a late one for me. I left here around 10.30pm, I can’t remember when exactly, and when I got home the kids were all still up crying their eyes out. I watched a bit of Chelsea and tried to relax a bit because there was a lot of stuff going on in my head. It is a big moment for myself so I just tried to calm myself and got two or three hours’ kip. I had a bath at 2.30am and was in here for eight o’clock.”

Ferguson, who admits he is not in the frame to succeed Silva, was asked to take temporary charge by Moshiri, alongside Kenwright, Brands and the chief executive, Denise Barrett-Baxendale. “I am here to steady the ship until they find whoever. When they asked me I felt as I do now, really emotional. It has been hard to take it all in. But I’m also excited, nervous, proud and just hoping I do a good job and we get a result.

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“You would never turn it down, would you? Obviously I know we are in a bit of trouble and they are going to have to take time to find candidates and go through that process. But I was never going to knock it back. I will always be here for Everton.”

Ferguson headed straight for the manager’s office to see Silva after discovering the Portuguese had been sacked. “I went to see all the coaching staff,” he said. “I was 100% behind Marco and 100% behind my previous managers and they will tell you that. So I went to see him. He was upset. The staff were quiet and upset. I gave him a hug and wished him all the best. He is a top manager, a very good coach and I am sure he will not be out of work for long.”

And with that Ferguson’s press conference was over. He shook the hand of every journalist in the room. His handshake was firm, naturally, but his palm was drenched in sweat. Nerves, he admitted.

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