Everton fans will be forgiven for suffering another case of deja vu.
Farhad Moshiri, in his sixth year at the helm at Goodison Park, is searching for a seventh manager to take charge after axing Rafa Benitez on Sunday.
This time, though, the Toffees vacancy may be a tough sell. On the brink of a relegation scrap, Everton have no money, a ragtag squad low on quality and an angry fanbase. It’s not the most attractive job description.
Duncan Ferguson is now caretaker manager at Everton following Rafa Benitez’s sacking
Roberto Martinez has been strongly linked with a sensational return to his former club, but Everton have hit a stumbling block, with the Premier League side not prepared to pay the £2m release clause in his contract with Belgium.
With no new managerial appointment in sight, the Everton legend Ferguson has taken on caretaker duties for their game against Aston Villa.
Ferguson – or ‘Big Dunc’ as he is affectionately termed by the Goodison Park faithful – is not unfamiliar with the caretaker role, having taken charge of the club for four games in 2019 following Marco Silva’s sacking.
Just over two years on from that stint he is back in the role, but has made clear that he believes he can take the post on a full-time basis.
The Toffees are in the midst of an alarming slump after parting ways with Rafa Benitez
So, with Everton sliding down the league at an alarming rate, what will Toffees fans want from Big Dunc? And, more importantly, is he the right man to keep them up?
It would not be overzealous to describe Ferguson’s short tenure as a riveting success. The 50-year-old picked up five points from three league games against Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal, and suffered a Carabao Cup exit to Leicester City on penalties.
The overriding memory of Ferguson’s four-game stint was Everton’s superb 3-1 victory over Chelsea at Goodison Park, just two days after Silva’s sacking by Moshiri.
An early strike from Richarlison, followed by a Dominic Calvert-Lewin brace, clinched an unforgettable triumph for Ferguson whose excitable post-match celebrations – in which he rejoiced in front of the Everton fans in just a white shirt and blazer (the match was played on a bitterly cold December night) – sparked wild scenes.
Sportsmail understands Ferguson has made clear his desire to take on the job permanently
The Scot had a hugely successful four-game stint in 2019 where he galvanised the fanbase
‘It was just relief, excitement, but you still know there is a long way to go in the game so you’re not getting too carried away – although it didn’t feel like that at the time,’ he said of his reaction to Richarlison’s fifth minute strike.
‘It was an incredible feeling. I’ve scored goals for this club, I’ve been involved in finals but that was incredible – not the goal but getting the points. It is difficult to describe.’
In truth, Goodison Park has rarely tasted an atmosphere like that since, with Carlo Ancelotti flattering to deceive before being subjected to the sterile football provided by Benitez.
Ferguson has proven that he has the ability to galvanise the fanbase and generate a raucous atmosphere at Goodison Park, the sort that’ll make any team fear travelling to Merseyside.
However, there is no hiding from the fact that Ferguson is not the fresh face the club needs
The 50-year-old has worked under six failed managers over the past eight years at Everton
Yet there can be no hiding from the fact that Ferguson is not the fresh face that could lift spirits in that beleaguered dressing room. The Scot returned to Everton as a youth coach during David Moyes’s tenure, before being promoted to the first-team coaching set up by the current West Ham manager in 2014.
As a result, Ferguson has been part of the backroom staff of no fewer than six departed managers at Goodison Park, including Martinez, Ronald Koeman, Sam Allardyce, Silva, Ancelotti and Benitez.
There is no doubt that Ferguson has showed he can give his players the rocket needed to get them out of a slump, but with the dressing room so familiar with the Scot, his influence may not be as effective as it once was.
However, Everton need a character ready to jump straight into a dogfight, and there can be no questioning of Ferguson’s grit when backs are against the wall.
He does, however, have the backbone to make unpopular decisions, as he did with Moise Kean
Ferguson is not afraid of making unpopular decisions if he thinks it will benefit the team.
Just ask Moise Kean. Ferguson grabbed headlines during his caretaker tenure when he substituted the Italian striker just 18 minutes after introducing him at Old Trafford to ‘kill a bit of time’.
So, he has the ruthlessness required to be the main man, but he has also shown the gentle touch necessary to see improved performances from his players.
Ferguson nurtured academy graduates Calvert-Lewin and Tom Davies, and will need more of the same to lift the spirits of this confidence-depleted dressing room, after Benitez claimed that his players were ‘anxious’ whenever they set foot on the pitch.
Ferguson can get the best out of the likes of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Tom Davies
He has waited for this opportunity for some time and is the fighter that Everton need right now
Ultimately, if Ferguson doesn’t get a chance permanently now, it’s unlikely that he will ever be given his first gig in football management at Goodison Park, and he would surely have to look elsewhere for an opportunity.
His love – and understanding – of the club and its fanbase gives him a huge advantage and there have certainly been enough signs that he deserves a longer spell to prove himself.
With the Toffees under huge threat of being dragged into the relegation mire with Watford, Newcastle, Norwich and Burnley, there comes a sizeable risk in appointing a relative novice until the end of the season.
But every managerial appointment contains some jeopardy and the tried-and-tested methods of Moshiri – big-name managers given big transfer budgets – has failed miserably.
When under constant attack from all angles, you can do worse than turn to somebody unafraid to punch back. There can be no doubt that Ferguson will come out swinging, if he is given the chance by the Everton hierarchy. And Toffees’ fans would love to see a bit of fight.