Everton look to Dogs of War spirit
Ex-striker-turned-coach Ferguson can rally Toffees against city rivals Liverpool
Ever since their 1-0 defeat at home by Liverpool in December's Merseyside Derby, Everton have become the Premier League's form team - eight wins and just a solitary defeat in a dozen subsequent games have given the Toffees a real shot at European qualification.
However, the fact that a pivotal figure in their resurgence - attacking fullback Seamus Coleman - will be missing tonight for the hotly anticipated rematch at Anfield is surely of huge concern to everyone involved with the club.
Coleman's horror injury while on international duty with the Republic of Ireland will have been terribly distressing for his teammates, and it will be no easy feat to pull the dressing room together in time for this showdown, which could have huge implications for both teams in their pursuit of a top- four finish.
If manager Ronald Koeman needs support in galvanising his charges, then he need look no further than a man on his own coaching staff; a bona fide Toffees legend.
When Duncan Ferguson joined the club on a three-month loan deal from Rangers back in 1994, he was the archetypal enfant terrible of British football, with a rap sheet longer than an Arsene Wenger goodbye.
Despite his undoubted abilities, very few clubs were interested in taking a chance on the imposing Scottish striker - the accompanying baggage was far too heavy.
However, Everton were in a truly parlous state; attendances had dipped below 30,000 as the club languished at the foot of the Premier League table under Mike Walker.
Ferguson's move south was precipitated by a high-profile assault on Raith Rovers' Jock McStay during his ill-fated spell at Rangers - an offence that ultimately led to a three-month jail sentence the following year.
Ferguson was already on probation for an altercation with a fisherman when he headbutted McStay in a tempestuous Ibrox clash.
However, if the Everton hierarchy was hoping that the fiery Scot would change his wild ways while on bail for the incident with McStay, they were sadly mistaken.
I didn't need a second to realise how important this fixture is. It's this moment when the world around us stops for 90 minutes. That's good. Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp
Ferguson wasn't yet ready to abandon the party lifestyle, and his first few displays in an Everton shirt had been so forgettable that there was speculation as to whether the club would cut short the loan agreement.
By November 1994, club legend Joe Royle had taken over from the axed Walker; his first match in charge would be a Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park.
Two days before the Monday night televised encounter, Ferguson decided to pop out for a few drinks.
Myriad bottles of wine later, and accompanied by a female companion he'd met in a Liverpool bar, he drove through a bus station, completely ignoring a "no entry" sign, and was pulled over by a policeman who also happened to be a Liverpool supporter.
After failing to convince the officer of his sobriety, Ferguson gave the lady his hotel key and was marched off to St Anne Street police station, where he was left to sober up in a cell until 6am.
"I was on the lash on Saturday, on Friday, on Thursday," he recalled at a sportsman's dinner in Liverpool three years ago.
"They gave me my shoes back, I put my laces back in, and I'm thinking, 'I have a derby game tomorrow night, dearie me'."
For the first 50 minutes of the vitally important clash for the rock-bottom Toffees, Ferguson was virtually anonymous.
However, when Neil "Razor" Ruddock clumped him from behind, the blue-touch paper was belatedly lit. Ferguson not only became angry, he also became virtually unplayable.
In the 56th minute, Ferguson out-jumped Ruddock and goalkeeper David James and powered home an Andy Hinchcliffe corner to give Everton a priceless lead.
Then, just a minute from time, Ferguson's clever pass allowed substitute Paul Rideout to slot home and seal a 2-0 victory.
The adoring public mobbed the striker, who'd celebrated his goal by throwing himself on his knees at the Gladys Street end at the final whistle.
It was a night that changed Ferguson's career and Everton's season - they not only went on to avoid relegation, but Royle's dogs of war would also beat Manchester United in the FA Cup final at Wembley the following May. It remains Everton's last piece of silverware.
These days, European qualification is viewed as being almost as important as winning trophies - certainly for the Arsenal hierarchy.
If Everton are to have any chance of maintaining their recent form and finishing above the Gunners, then they need to invoke the spirit of Ferguson and Royle's infamous fighting canines.
Richard Lenton is the lead presenter at Eleven Sports. Join Richard and his studio guests for Eleven's live coverage of the Premier League, which includes tonight's clashes between Liverpool and Everton (7.30pm) and Man United versus West Brom (10pm), plus tomorrow's showdown between Southampton and Bournemouth (12.30am). For more details, visit www.elevensports.sg