Will Duncan Ferguson succeed as boss? Our writers have their say when the former Dundee United star takes the job at Forest Green Rovers (2023)


Former Dundee United star Duncan Ferguson has been unveiled as the new manager of Forest Green Rovers.

The 51-year-old has joined England's League One, who are four points clear of the bottom of the table.

He is dating former St Johnstone recruitment director Stevie Grieve,who is in a similar role at Rovers.

The Scotsman returns to the coaching bench after stepping down as assistant coach at Everton in July 2022 to pursue managerial ambitions.

Born in Stirling, Ferguson, who has also played for Rangers, Everton and Newcastle, said: “I am delighted to be taking the next step in my career with Forest Green Rovers and I intend to stay here for a while.

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Duncan Ferguson as the club's new manager.#WeAreFGR💚

– Forest Green Rovers (@FGRFC_Official)January 26, 2023

"We have to fight a bit to stay in League One and I'm up for the challenge."

The man, nicknamed the Big Dunc, has held a variety of behind-the-scenes roles at Goodison Park, including acting boss, No. 2 to Carlo Ancelotti and Rafa Benitez, and academy coach.

Will he succeed in the highest office?

Our sportswriters Ewan Smith, Eric Nicolson, Alan Temple, George Cran and Craig Cairns weighed in.

Do you think Duncan Ferguson will succeed as a manager?

ewan: I think Duncan Ferguson has all the qualities needed to be a very successful coach. He has had extensive coaching experience over the last ten years at Everton, twice as caretaker manager. Most importantly, his motivating personality will inspire players to play for him.

Erich: I suspect not – at least at the highest level. Everton go through managers like few other English Premier League clubs and had they seen signs that they had the next Guardiola or Klopp in the building they would have turned one of Ferguson's caretaker charms into a permanent job.

Alan: While it's impossible to judge Big Dunc until he lands a top job, his playing career and golden education suggest he's ready to jump at the opportunity.

Ferguson, now 51, has the confidence of being on the team of legendary coaches like Carlo Ancelotti and Rafa Benitez. It shows his skills in the training camp.

Ferguson has also served as head caretaker for the Toffees twice and has never been overbooked - in fact, he has since been permanently listed as a candidate for the job.

There are no certainties, but given his trajectory and personality, you wouldn't bet that he would be a success on the FGR bench.

Will Duncan Ferguson succeed as boss? Our writers have their say when the former Dundee United star takes the job at Forest Green Rovers (1)

Jorge: Yes, I think he will. The spells he had as a caretaker showed that there was some management skill to it, especially considering the mess the Toffees are in right now. He was a respected coach at Goodison Park and has a demanding nature that could be a decent mix for a manager.

craig: It depends on so many different variables, but after the short time he's had as caretaker at Everton and what we know about him as a character, he seems like the type of guy who gets a buy-in. I can't say I know much about his coaching credentials, but he was part of Everton's coaching setup at a time when they were run by some top managers.

Are Forest Green Rovers - bottom of League One - the right club to start your career at No 1?

ewan: In my opinion, it is much better for managers to start at the bottom and work their way up. When accustomed to working at a lower level, they often become more "complete" trainers as they progress to a higher level. Of course, failing your first job at a smaller club is always a risk as it makes it harder to climb the ladder. But I think Forest Green, as a character with his sleeves rolled up, is the ideal club for Big Dunc to start with.

Erich: I do not think so. Try as I might, I struggle to see Ferguson and Stevie Grieve, the athletic director, as natural working partners.

Alan: It sure is a challenge. However, FGR are just four points adrift of safety in League One and if he makes the desired impact then there's no reason not to keep him.

With the guidance of a fellow countryman - former Dundee United pundit Stevie Grieve - as sporting director, Ferguson takes on a squad full of Scots such as Kyle McAllister, Regan Hendry and Dylan McGeouch.

Will Duncan Ferguson succeed as boss? Our writers have their say when the former Dundee United star takes the job at Forest Green Rovers (2)

FGR is also an ambitious and visionary team, with great ambitions for the future and an intriguing and commendable social conscience. It's certainly an intriguing choice for an always intriguing character.

Jorge: It's hard work. But not impossible. Forest Green may be at the bottom of the table, but they are close enough to safety to make things right. A new managerial leap is his game plan, and someone with Ferguson's attitude could do just that. If he can't hold them off, he can't blame himself too much after the mid-season skydive.

craig: From a distance it's not easy to decide whether Forest Green are specifically the right club, but given the club's level in the English leagues it might be the right move. We've recently seen Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard - whose respective pedigrees are indisputable - fail at Premier League level, perhaps because they landed the job so early in their careers.

Will Duncan Ferguson succeed as boss? Our writers have their say when the former Dundee United star takes the job at Forest Green Rovers (3)

Given your reputation as a player, how do you see him dealing with different characters in the dressing room?

ewan: There's no doubt that Big Dunc won't be for everyone. The outside perception is that he will rule with an iron fist given what he was like as a player. But he is also clearly a humble character and it shows in his social media interactions with Everton fans. He's welcoming and kind, but as a coach I hope he doesn't get too friendly with idlers, so his players better be willing to work hard!

Erich: To some extent, his reputation will precede him, but players will judge Ferguson by what he does in training camp. Gone are the days when fear ruled the dressing room.

Alan: Easily. The image of the brash and violent Ferguson will always live on.

And while you don't joke about the imposing Dundonian - he has matured into a good trainer and is clearly a good manager.

Anyone who thinks that modern superstars like Wayne Rooney, Theo Walcott and Richarlison - the 9th Brazilian - is just wrong to screams and bangs.

Ferguson may not be a purple shrink, but he's also a modern 2023 coach.

Jorge: From his days as manager of Everton, he seemed very capable of building rapport between players. Part of that was discipline - just ask Moise Kean at Old Trafford. It doesn't take fools, but if it strikes the right balance between demands and positive feedback, players will respond.

craig: I think we've seen on his social media and such that he's a different character now than he was when he was a player. We won't know exactly how he handles the unique pressures of being a manager until that happens, but - going back to his brief spell as caretaker at Everton - we've already seen him react from a team to hit a low point.

Should he have broken the administration in Scotland?

Will Duncan Ferguson succeed as boss? Our writers have their say when the former Dundee United star takes the job at Forest Green Rovers (4)

ewan: I would love to see him at Dundee United one day. Given he started there and is still highly regarded at Tannadice, United seems a natural fit. There was talk of a move to United when Jack Ross left at the start of the season, but it was never realistic. Big Dunc wanna go up the street? I am not sure. He has spent so much time in English football that he will likely see his future down south.

Erich: As much as I'd like to see this from a journalist's perspective, I think it's a bad idea. The off-field stuff up here is casting a pretty big shadow.

Alan: Should, could, could. Ferguson has built a life for himself in England and it would take an incredibly attractive offer to lure him back north of the border.

Dundee United's interest has been well documentedbut considering what it would have cost to try Dunc to uproot his roots and move back to Dundee, he was always imaginative.

It would be wonderful to see Ferguson back as manager in Scotland and if he is successful at FGR he will no doubt be on the radar for the future.

Jorge: Looks like he's not far off - the Forest Green squad already has some Scots there! Former Dundee United defender Jamie Robson is also included, along with Dylan McGeouch, Ross Doohan, Kyle McAllister and Regan Hendry. Scotland would have been a good place to start, but if you are successful in your first job in the English Football League then your managerial career will be in full swing.

craig: Not yet. Regarding the previous two answers, he would probably be better off stepping out of the spotlight. Much of his reputation as a player is based on his exploits in Scotland and we know the fishbowl nature of football in Scotland. I'm sure Ferguson would hold his own in the Scottish Premiership, but I'm probably also aware of the media attention this will bring.

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