As the match against Liverpool ended in a 2-0 victory for Everton, the elation of this writer was of course, beyond description. As many Toffee supporters around the world likely were experiencing similar sensations and circumstances, some may not have seen Everton legend Big Duncan Ferguson, joyfully running to all of his players, embracing them not as a boss embraces a player, but in the manner a father embraces a son; perhaps an uncle with his nephews. The joy and pride in his face was not that of a football coach, but of family, tearfully proud of his boys for the proper job they accomplished on this day.
This massive man, an Everton legend in his own right as a powerful and efficient number nine, is a crucial piece of this team still today. And while he appears to be a fabulous teacher at this point in his footballing career, his value transcends whatever skills he can refine with the players, and even whatever playing experience he can relate to them with. No, his truest value for Everton, the one that makes him as crucial as I stated, is his passion for the club; his love of his players, his love of Everton as a club and a community, and his passion to become better makes him one of Don Carlo Ancelotti’s most valuable assistants.
Big Dunc, Bigger Heart
While Duncan has been, along with his superior, integral to the turnaround the team has experienced since the firing of Marco Silva, the passion of Ferguson is likely what kept him around Goodison Park and Finch Farm when Don Carlo took over after the Scot’s brief caretaker spell. Carlo enjoys having a former player of his current club on his staff as well, as his past in Italy and Chelsea demonstrate, and so Big Dunc felt very natural even at the time; I wrote that he should remain on the staff when the legend Ancelotti was rumored to be close to joining, and to my joy, the Don did just that.
Yet since that time, it has been obvious that the coach’s impact on his club seems to grow as Ancelotti’s does. Indeed, the club appears ever more a reflection of both men, and not merely the famous Italian; when the final whistle blew against Liverpool just days ago, this was again apparent. While the team had remained wonderfully composed against their largest rivals for the entire match, upon its completion, one saw the joy of Duncan Ferguson in all of players. His embraces, what looked to be tears, and unbridled ecstasy flooded the pitch like a force of nature, and what that meant to him and his players likely goes much further than three points might indicate.
We had previously seen that manifested during Ferguson’s interim tenure as Everton boss, celebrating goals with verve and gusto as he tore up and down the touchline, hugging ballboys and rousing the crowd with his trademark fist-pumping ritual.
This real human connection, this love and passion, is all as valuable as the training ground drills. It is all as valuable, perhaps even more so, than the lectures, the stories, the exercises and so on. The bond that the players have with one another, with their bosses and their community, is enough to energize those players one thousand times over. Seeing Seamus Coleman sprinting to cover Jordan Henderson as though his life depended on it, was this spirit embodied on the pitch, but it was apparent across it on this day from the likes of Tom Davies, to Jordan Pickford, Mason Holgate and Ben Godfrey as well.
Yet for some clubs, the team is just the job, not the lifestyle. While these Toffees all exemplified the spirit of the club and Big Dunc on the pitch, the likes of Tom Davies and recently retired Leighton Baines continued to do so off the pitch as well. The joy of Everton should be celebrated and enjoyed by all Toffees, because our victories are victories for all who love the Royal Blue. This is the spirit that grabbed up the boys after the match, with an accent that sounds as though it just recently walked down from the highlands; it is being amplified by the wisdom of Don Carlo, and is growing ever more efficacious the longer the players are allowed to steep in it.
While the players used be given the lion’s share of the credit, the coaching staff must too receive their acclamation. Don Carlo has proven his genius once again, taking and affecting not only players whose talent and abilities were not being properly utilized, but other footballing minds as well. And so, while Ancelotti deserves to be applauded as usual, Big Dunc continues to demonstrate that his value wades into the territory of intangible for this iteration of Everton and likely its future as well.