A series of first-hand accounts describing moments that made us fall in love with Everton, 'My Everton' is a new weekly offering here on evertonfc.com, bringing you the most-treasured memories of fans, players, and staff both past and present.
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“Steak and chips, son.”
I’m standing with Duncan Ferguson as he tells me about his favourite meal and asks about mine.
Like many, I find it difficult to pinpoint exactly how, when and why I fell in love with Everton, but Ferguson seems intrinsically entwined in so many of my most-treasured memories.
This – a fleeting conversation around go-to dishes – is without doubt the most surreal. It’s also the first time I’d been in his company since he recorded a video message for my dad, who had been diagnosed with a serious illness, on the eve of his major operation.
So often, as I grew up in the 1990s, Ferguson was the beacon of light in troubled times.
Somehow, 15 years after hanging up his boots, he unknowingly fulfilled that role once again. It turns out, amidst the worries of more harrowing circumstances than football, he retains the ability to lift spirits and bring hope.
From the towering number 9 with the upturned collar and floppy-tongued Mundials I watched at my first match, to my first Everton interview as a trainee journalist while he was Kevin Sheedy’s assistant with our Under-18s, Ferguson has been a near constant for as long as I can remember.
The impact he’s had on me is unrivalled.
My dad, who is fortunate enough to remember the likes of the great Alan Ball and Howard Kendall’s famous side of the mid-1980s, counts Ferguson as his favourite-ever player, too.
Because the love for Big Dunc runs deeper than simply moments he provided on the pitch. It’s the attitude he embodies, the values he stands for and, of course, the mutual feelings we have for Everton that make Ferguson the icon he is.
“Everton personified,” as my dad would say.
And the contradictions that surround him only add to the mystique.
An impulsive player, yet a studious coach who has played a significant role in the impressive development of international strikers such as Romelu Lukaku and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Aggressive on the pitch, but generous and empathetic off it. A charitable man, who routinely arranges visits and records personal messages for fans of his own accord, outside official routes within the Club. The majority of those – like my dad’s – go completely under the radar, unless they are shared on social media.
The light-hearted chat at Finch Farm about favourite food was a timely mood-lifter, of course.
At the time, I didn’t have it in me to mention the message he had recorded – the one that reduced an entire family to tears – was for my dad.
I don’t think I’ll ever find the right words of gratitude for that, or indeed for how he helped my generation of Evertonians fall in love with the Club.
But I would love to thank him one day.
Perhaps over steak and chips.
By Mike Taylor, Evertonian and Everton Content Manager