Book Review: In Search Of Duncan Ferguson

In Search of Duncan Ferguson by Alan Pattullo

I wasn’t expecting to read a book about footballing legend (or is it myth?) Duncan Ferguson and actually get the feeling I was reading about a determined sleuth taking up a cold case and hunting for a missing person.

Yet that’s the vibe I got from this paperback.

Author Alan Pattullo is dogged and methodical as he leaves no stone unturned when finding out about all the aspects that shaped ‘Big Dunc’s’ career and life.

Former pals, teammates, managers, employers and even a sheriff and a few former Barlinnie workers are tracked down to give insight.

Pattullo, you sense, gave much of his life (in that period) to his illusive subject. He treads the line of bias well, never straying into love nor hatred of the tall striker. Having like Alan watched Ferguson’s career from afar for the duration, I know I’d have been in awe of the character and that would’ve ruined any prospective book I’d have written about him.

There’s two constant narratives that runs throughout and they are… Self destruct and failure to reach full potential.

Being great or fantastic ‘on his day’ is a quote that various footballing figures mention consistently. While Ferguson’s charge sheet on and off the pitch is there for everyone to see.

I feel we could have heard a bit more about the injuries taking a toll too. They unquestionably hampered Duncan’s career and are mentioned in the book, but the man himself has stated it was a huge factor that stalled his footballing life. Now he did mention that long after Alan completed the book, so all in all it’s maybe Ferguson’s own fault for it not making as big an impact on the pages as he never consented in giving his views to the writer.

Growing up in Glasgow in the 1990s, I of course remember the famous head-butt that would lead to Ferguson serving time behind bars. It was a long drawn out process but Pattullo excellently covers it here. I particular like that the victim of the piece Jock McStay gets a chance to tell us his side of the drama, even at the time you felt he was seriously overlooked and somewhat shunted by Scottish football.

Does this book miss Duncan Ferguson’s voice? I actually don’t think it does.

I think Alan Pattullo’s account is accurate and well balanced. Ferguson’s lack of involvement actually gives the pages more intrigue and you understand even more that you can watch a footballer throughout his entire career and gleam very little about the man under the strip!

Going back to the missing person analogy; the gallus gumshoe seems to find the skeleton early on, then forensically adds the flesh and features on but in the end never truly find out the person’s true feelings and personality.

The book essentially allows the reader to reflect on the career of the cult-like Scottish striker and come up with their own conclusions.

A fascinating read!

In Search of Duncan Ferguson is available at Waterstones.

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