Duncan Ferguson wore a trademark blue sweatband on his left wrist. On his right was an old Armani watch, broken and stuck at 8.15. It was not the sign of a managerial novice forgetting to use a stopwatch but another reminder, not that any more were required after a tumultuous defeat of Chelsea, of how much Everton means to the man in temporary charge.
“It’s Howard Kendall’s watch,” said Ferguson, the adrenaline still flowing an hour after Everton’s 3-1 win. “Lily [Kendall’s widow] came down and gave it to me to put on my wrist and wear it. Lily gave it to my wife this morning. She said she wanted me to wear it on the bench for Howard. I loved him. He was a diamond, wasn’t he? It was very emotional. It doesn’t work but there you go, it’s nice. It’s an amazing feeling. To get the result and you could just feel it in the stadium, couldn’t you? Everyone was so happy, everything went well.”
Everything went perfectly from an Everton perspective as Ferguson oversaw a passionate, committed display that hauled the club out of the relegation zone. The Scot maintains he is not in the frame to replace Marco Silva on a permanent basis but a first-team coach helping Everton out of the mire for as long as his employers want him. What everyone inside Goodison Park on Saturday would want is more of the same.
The Everton hierarchy will step up their search for Silva’s successor this week and hope to speak to several candidates. The former Bayern Munich manager Niko Kovac was in the Goodison crowd on Saturday but only as part of a fact-finding mission on English football, according to his agent. Vitor Pereira and David Moyes are on the shortlist, along with Marcelino, the former Valencia and Villarreal coach, Leonardo Jardim of Monaco and Ralf Rangnick. Carlo Ancelotti is another whom Everton would like, although they accept prising him from Napoli will be difficult.
In the meantime Ferguson will continue in charge, and the tactical acumen he showed in devising a game plan to beat Chelsea with goals from Richarlison and two from Dominic Calvert-Lewin should not be overlooked. Everton’s win was not fuelled on passion alone. Ferguson’s decision to deploy two up top – something Silva claimed was ineffective against the likes of Sheffield United – was among several fine calls.
The Scot said: “I knew 4-4-2 would work well. We wanted to press the ball. With two strikers you can shuffle across midfield and screen their midfield. We did that well enough. We were worried about the ball over the top because we have been done by that a few times, but in the main it worked well. We blocked the middle of the pitch and, when it went out wide, we pressed it hard. That worked well, too.
“I think 4-4-2 can get a bad name but we needed to make sure we were defending. We were not going to play pretty patterns because we did not have time to work with the players. 4-4-2 is the default position for me. It’s all about personnel as well. We were really short on players. [Djibril] Sidibé was unbelievable. He had not been well in the hotel but he kept on there for the whole game. Yerry Mina has a hamstring, then Mason Holgate goes down and I am thinking we are going to have to play Morgan [Morgan] Schneiderlin as a central defender. He was incredible as well.”