“Give it to Duncan”; that’s the opinion of former Everton favourite Neville Southall following the departure of Rafael Benitez on Sunday.
The Benitez era proved short-lived at Goodison Park following a controversial appointment and miserable run of form, eventually culminating in his dismissal with the Toffees edging closer to a relegation battle with just 19 points from 19 games.
The focus has predictably turned to who would be the best person to replace the Spaniard in the hot seat, and assistant manager Duncan Ferguson has the backing of a former team-mate to return to the role he took up temporarily three years ago.
“Give it to Duncan, see how he goes,” pleaded Southall in an interview with Freebets. “My only concern is that people remember him for his on pitch antics, rather than his ability as a coach.
“I fear he’s overlooked as the bloke who would head the ball in off the back of someone else’s head, judging him on that persona when that’s not him.
“He’s thoughtful, he’s dedicated, he’s analytical, he’s tactically aware – give him a chance! Duncan will get things up and running within a week.”
It’s not an argument without merit either, with Ferguson claiming a win over Chelsea and draws with Manchester United, Arsenal and Leicester in his four games in charge before handing over the reigns to Carlo Ancelotti in 2019.
One other man who has been linked with the job is Wayne Rooney, who has performed miracles at Derby under severe financial constraints and uncertainty.
Despite Derby having a 21 point deduction, injury problems and a transfer embargo, they have moved off the bottom of the Championship table and are just 9 points from safety.
What an unbelievable job Wayne Rooney is doing 👏 pic.twitter.com/y9dlc7JVSR
— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) January 16, 2022
Of course another former favourite with the club close to his heart, Southall wouldn’t be against seeing Rooney team up with Ferguson as the club tries to win over the supporters alienated by appointing a man more commonly associated with the red part of Merseyside.
“I think there’ll be a clamour for Rooney,” admitted Southall. “There’s no reason why you couldn’t have him alongside Duncan.
“You’ve got to think would Wayne want to jump now? He might do, especially if Mike Ashley is buying the club. He’s done a remarkable job at Derby but nobody’s ever asked Rooney if he wants the job.
“He’d like to be back at Everton and he’ll be closer to the players than anybody outside of the club.”
Appointments such as Rooney, Ferguson or even Roberto Martinez would be seen as the perfect tonic to many Evertonians follow the disaster of Benitez, who caused controversy from the moment he entered the building last summer.
Next Everton manager odds:
- Roberto Martinez – 4/6
- Duncan Ferguson – 7/2
- Wayne Rooney – 9/2
- Nuno Espirito Santo – 12/1
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Financial constraints and a misfiring team – together with a perceived negative style of play – resulted in Benitez overseeing just one win in all competitions since the beginning of October, with the club now teetering six points above the drop after losing 2-1 to Norwich on Saturday.
The appointment, Southall concedes, was always a risky one: “He’s done OK, but I look at it and think, Rafa, you’re the most unpopular man to ever walk through the doors at Everton.
“Some of our fans couldn’t hate him anymore, no matter how hard they tried. So I think we’re back to square one again.”
He added: “It took some bollocks to take the job, it’s really difficult when anyone walks through the door at Everton. He’s not a mug, he’s won the Champions League – same as Carlo Ancelotti. Why is it that when these top class managers join, they can’t get anything out of the players?
“Duncan got something out of them! Maybe he’s a bit scarier in the dressing room, but questions need to be asked here. This will have damaged Rafa’s reputation and he doesn’t deserve that really.
“As a manager, he came here and knew what he wanted but wasn’t given time to do it. I think it will have been more political than we thought and deeper in the dressing room than he thought.”
So what next at Goodison?
The disaster of Benitez and a string of high-profile, big money transfers that have also failed to work out as well as the departure of Marcel Brands, have seen the spotlight shifted to Farhad Moshiri, and Southall is pleading with the Everton owner to provide the necessary backing to whoever the new manager chosen is.
“In business, you need to appear to be doing well, even if you’re not,” Southall explained. “My argument here is you need to throw loads of names out there, keep making it look like things are moving on and things are happening at the club.
“We need two centre halves who can play with the ball and a bit of pace around the pitch. The more we’re linked with, the better the fans mood. We should be in the market for every great player.
“Fans want to see us shopping at Harrods, not Aldi!
This article was edited by Conor Laird.
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