By Neil Robinson
(Reuters) – Everton caretaker manager Duncan Ferguson spent much of his first game in charge against Chelsea at Goodison Park on Saturday staring and glaring from his technical area.
But when the final whistle blew after a scintillating 3-1 win over the Londoners, the Scot broke into the toothiest of grins and strode on to the pitch to fist-pump the air.
A ball-boy was hugged and the home crowd responded as only they could to a true Blue great who had coaxed a full-throttle performance from a side who looked so abject in a humiliating 5-2 midweek derby defeat at Liverpool.
From the moment Richarlison thumped a fifth-minute header past the keeper — a goal similar to the many Ferguson scored in his decade at the club — the result was never in doubt.
Everton, who were almost always first to the ball, played fast and furiously as Goodison roared its approval at a win that moved the club provisionally out of the relegation zone.
Ferguson said it was “not realistic” to consider himself a candidate as permanent manager but, with no obvious alternative in sight, there will be those who may now disagree.
And although the former Everton striker said afterwards that he would not be demanding the job full time, he was clearly delighted by his first taste of management.
“I think everyone could see on the touchline how enthusiastic I was,” he said. “It was an incredible experience that no one can take away from me. I am savouring the moment.”
Ferguson’s decision to play to the club’s traditional strengths, and field a 4-4-2 formation, said much about his suitability — at least in the short term.
He was particularly delighted with Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who scored twice. “We really like him here,” he said. “He had a wee bit of help up there but what a shift everybody put in.”
It was left to winger Theo Walcott to acknowledge the impact Ferguson has had since Marco Silva was dismissed on Thursday following their drubbing at Anfield.
“Duncan has come in and the club is his heart,” said Walcott. “That was the Everton way. We play for each other and Dominic (Calvert-Lewin) was immense.
“We wanted intensity and pressure and to get in behind them. We put them under pressure and made them make mistakes.
“Duncan said go out and play your game and enjoy it. As much as it sounds a cliche, that is what we did.”
And so did the crowd, roaring their approval at every crunching tackle and poinpoint pass.
Before the game Ferguson said he was the “proudest man on the planet” to manage the side he played for with distinction.
By the end, there was no doubting that he meant it.
(Reporting by Neil Robinson; Editing by Ken Ferris)