Reformed bad boy Ferguson is having an impact on Scotland frontman Naismith

By Stephen Mcgowan

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He was known as ‘Duncan Disorderly’. The rabble-rousing enfant terrible of Scottish football, who quit the national team in a fit of pique.

For long enough, Duncan Ferguson was no one’s idea of the perfect footballing role model.

These days, however, a new figure is emerging. And Steven Naismith, a probable Scotland starter in Poland, is reaping the benefits.

Benefits: Scotland frontman Steven Naismith is enjoying working with Duncan Ferguson at Everton

Benefits: Scotland frontman Steven Naismith is enjoying working with Duncan Ferguson at Everton

Recently appointed to the first-team coaching staff at Everton, Ferguson has undergone a transformation since his Scotland career ended prematurely.

Twenty years ago, a stunning debut against Germany was overshadowed by a jail term and lengthy ban for headbutting Raith Rovers defender Jock McStay whilst playing for Rangers.

Walter Smith tried to talk him around, but his cap haul amounts to seven appearances for his country. His relationship with the SFA was severed completely after a brief comeback in 1997.

The first thaw in relations came when the man known as ‘Big Dunc’ returned from a five-year hiatus from football to undergo his badges at Largs.

Stunning debut: Ferguson heads the ball away from Germany's Jurgen Kohler during a 1993 friendly

Stunning debut: Ferguson heads the ball away from Germany's Jurgen Kohler during a 1993 friendly

Appointed to coach the Goodison kids, he showed a hitherto unsuspected talent for coaching. Naismith, the most recent Scot to leave Rangers for Everton, sees it first hand.

‘He’s been about the first team a lot and has been great,’ said the striker. ‘Duncan is a massive figure at the club in terms of the fans.

‘He brings a lot of passion and has worked well with me. I’ve enjoyed the small things he does.

‘We do shooting drills with Duncan. He takes a lot of it and has been good to work with.

‘He was always someone I looked up to anyway. I vaguely remember him at Rangers, but more so his Everton career.

‘The fans love him. Everybody talks about “Big Dunc this and Big Dunc that”. The club’s most recent success came when he was in the team. The Evertonians still remember that.’

Club legend: Ferguson is a huge favourtie among Everton fans and has also admitted his own love for the club

Club legend: Ferguson is a huge favourtie among Everton fans and has also admitted his own love for the club

The idea of Ferguson as a first-team coach at a Premiership club would have been improbable as recently as five years ago.

Here was a man who, via a string of off-field headlines in his playing days, appeared to be no example to any aspiring footballer.

‘You hear a lot of stories about him,’ admitted Naismith, ‘so it was good to have a chat.

‘He’s actually a really quiet guy and he doesn’t give much away until you sit down with him and have a good talk.

‘He chucked football for a while. It’s amazing. He just went and lived in Majorca for five years.

‘Duncan just went there to enjoy life but eventually he missed the game and wanted back in.

‘I spoke to him about that. He said he started to miss football and that shows what the game is like. You start to get the bug back.’

Emotional: Duncan Ferguson acknowledges the Goodison crowd having retired from the game

Emotional: Duncan Ferguson acknowledges the Goodison crowd having retired from the game

Of all the regrets Ferguson must harbour over his former self, the dearth of caps gained – by choice – might feature high on the list.

‘We’ve not gone into too much detail about the Scotland stuff,’ added Naismith. ‘It’s been more general chats about his life.

‘There’s a different side to him. The time he spent working with the Everton youths has given him a good start.

‘Now he’s working with us, you see him as a coach - not a young guy trying to be a coach. He’s good.

‘To be honest, I don’t think there’s a better club for him to be at. The whole set-up is fantastic.’

Naismith is another Scot thriving at Goodison. From the odd walk-in cameo role, the former Kilmarnock player has begun to make an impression, two goals in the FA Cup win over Swansea solidifying his first-team claims.

Yet Naismith points to a starring role up front as Scotland’s lone striker in a 2-1 win in Macedonia as the turning point in his season.

‘Playing up front for Scotland was probably the start of other people noticing that I can do that,’ said the 27-year-old.

On the scoresheet: Steven Naismith celebrates after scoring for Everton against Swansea in the FA Cup

On the scoresheet: Steven Naismith celebrates after scoring for Everton against Swansea in the FA Cup

‘These days, especially when teams play one striker, a lot of people will look for size. But I’ve always been confident that I can play in that role.

‘When the manager played me there against Macedonia, it showed a lot of people that I can do that job.

‘I played against Croatia, scored and contributed again. That maybe made people more aware that I can play that role well.

‘I feel good now. In the last couple of months, I’ve been involved quite a bit and been doing well.

‘The manager has played me more central - whether that be as a main striker, or off a striker.

‘I’ve always said that’s where I am most comfortable and I’ve managed to take the chance.’

The return of Steven Fletcher - widely regarded as Gordon Strachan’s No 1 striker - offers a challenge in Warsaw on Wednesday night.

Yet Naismith’s versatility serves him well and, with Robert Snodgrass injured, he looks likely to feature in the three-man line behind the main out-and-out striker.

‘One thing I’ve learned from Roberto Martinez this season is that you need everybody,’ he continued.

‘It’s going to be like that, whether Fletch is injured or the manager wants to play someone else.

‘It’s not a case of him picking one striker to go with in every game.

‘The games are different and we will play in a different way. We will all contribute.

‘The main thing is that there is good competition for places in attack.

Influential: Naismith says Everton boss Roberto Martinez (pictured) has taught him that a football squad needs everybody throughout the season

Influential: Naismith says Everton boss Roberto Martinez (pictured) has taught him that a football squad needs everybody throughout the season

‘Ross McCormack has also been doing well at Leeds. He is scoring goals and leading the club as captain.

‘That can only help us as a squad and a country.’ 

In other positions, as well, Naismith senses more depth than before. More options for the Scotland manager to explore before the European Championship qualifiers begin in Germany in September.

Strachan has already warned people against reading too much into tonight’s line-up.

‘There is so much competition,’ added Naismith, ‘not only up front but in midfield too, with Darren Fletcher coming back.

‘I’ve said many times that, in my international career, this is as hard a squad to get in as there has ever been.

‘There are quality players not in this squad who are desperate to get there. That raises the optimism of the fans.’

 

The comments below have not been moderated.

I thought he was called Drunken Disorderly!

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He got hung drawn and quartered by the Scottish FA. He hardly left in a fit of pique Also he hated the press and very rarely gave interviews, so I imagine the reporting of him over the years is biased in a negative way

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He was a controvertial figure when a player but then again so was Joe Jordan and he is an excellent coach

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I was always a Duncan fan...but I believe he is wasting his time with Naismith....

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"who quit the national team in a fit of pique" !!. The SFA ensured he got a jail term for a yellow card offence. Wopuld you want to represent an organisation, who as well as ruining scottish football, believed the only place fort their games greatest talent at the time, should be locked up for what was basically a 'handbags' incident. Don't blame Duncan Scotland, blame the SFA.

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A proper battering ram of a striker! I wouldn't have fancied being asked by the manager to mark him!

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Duncan Ferguson the man who came in from the cold. Legend Legend LEGEND !

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He's a lesson in persistence. Never once moaned and whilst not as naturally gifted as some he bridges the gap with hard work. The type of player you want to see do well. Hope it works out at Everton for him but only time will tell, he needs to be kept centrally to have a chance though.

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Duncan ferguson quit the national team because he got hung ou to dry by the SFA

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