Big Interview: Derek Ferguson
Read a Big Inteview with former Gers player Derek Ferguson.
On RangersTV supporters can watch in-depth one-to-ones with a lot of the club’s greatest stars as they discuss their football careers and years at Ibrox.
Today, creative midfielder Derek Ferguson, who finished his playing career at Raith Rovers in 2006, looks back at his eight years at Ibrox from 1982 to 1990.
A man of many clubs, Derek Ferguson made his senior debut aged just 15 for Rangers in Tom Forsyth’s testimonial.
Signed by John Greig, Ferguson played under Jock Wallace and then Graeme Souness in what became an extremely successful period for the club.
He went on to win three League Championships at Rangers, before moving on to Hearts and then an incredible 11 further teams.
His brother Barry, of course, went on top captain both Rangers and Scotland, and Derek admits in this interview to being extremely proud of his younger sibling’s achievements.
Name: Derek Ferguson
POB: Calderbank, Scotland
Clubs: Rangers, Dundee (loan), Hearts, Sunderland, Falkirk, Dunfermline, Portadown, Partick Thistle, Adelaide Force, Ross County, Clydebank, Alloa Athletic, Hamilton Accies, Raith Rovers.
Teams managed: Clydebank, Stranraer, Glenafton Athletic.
Honours With Rangers:
Scottish League Championship (1987, 1989, 1990)
Scottish League Cup (1985, 1986, 1988, 1989)
International Caps: 2 (Scotland)
How did your move to Rangers come about?
DF: “I signed when I was 12-years-old, but just before I signed I was in at Celtic Park, and I had also been up at Dundee United as well as Manchester United.
“But as soon as Rangers came calling, I had absolutely no doubts about it.
“I had grown up a Rangers supporter, but I wasn’t daft enough to knock back the chance to go and train with other clubs.
“My dad was probably more excited than me when I signed, but it really was a dream come true.”
You made your first first-team appearance for Rangers aged just 15. That must have been some experience?
DF: “It was Tam Forsyth’s testimonial, and my recollection of that game is that I didn’t start it, but I came on as a substitute.
“Big Tam started the game and then came off after five minutes. I remember when he came into the dugout where I was sitting, he sat down and lit up a cigarette!
“I couldn’t believe it, but for me, I just couldn’t wait to get on to the park. I think I got the last half-hour and that was down to Joh6n Greig. I’ve a lot to thank him for.”
Did you ever feel that a bit too much came too soon for you?
DF: “I never thought of it like that. It was exciting times for me, as Rangers were the team I had supported as a boy and the next thing I was out playing for them.
“I used to sit in the Centenary Stand and watch these guys and now I was playing alongside them.
“It probably did come too quick, but I never thought of it like that.”
You seemed to enjoy your life off the park too!
DF: “I’ve got the ‘bad boy’ tag, but I wasn’t doing anything different from what the other guys were doing.
“When Graeme Souness came, I think he saw some of him in me, and he maybe wanted me to live my life in a certain way.
“I was still 18 or 19, and all of my pals were of that age too so we wanted to go out. Graeme was maybe 33 and had come from Italy, and he had a whole different outlook.
“I found it really hard to go from one extreme to the other, but looking back, not once did I not prepare for a game correctly.
“But after the games, I would go out, and that would maybe carry into a Sunday. In some ways I regret it, but in others, I don’t as I had an absolute ball.
“When I signed a contract for first of all, John Greig, he took me in, told me what I was getting and I signed on the dotted line.
“When Jock Wallace came in, he did exactly the same. There were no agents or anything like that, and I was just delighted to sign. If they were extending my contract, then I must have been doing something right.
“It was the same when Graeme came in, and the money side of it never came into my thinking. I was Rangers through and through, and I was loving it. It wasn’t work for me, and a lot of the guys I played with were the same.
“Even when I was going to training and I walked through the front doors at Ibrox, it was such a big thing for me. Even at 12-years-old, you had to be turned out in your shirt and tie. There was a strict discipline installed.”
It is often said you and Graeme Souness didn’t get on. What was it really like?
DF: “When he came to the club, it was absolutely brilliant as he was the best midfielder in Britain, if not Europe, and I actually really liked him.
“If I had been the same age as he was, he would have been my best mate as I got on well with him.
“But now I’m older, I can see why he got frustrated with me. I picked up a couple of serious injuries, which people forget about, but they could have been prevented had I been working on other parts of my game.
“I think he saw a bit of me in him, but I think we were totally different players. I could never be as hard as him, and I could never score as many goals as him.
“There was a bit of friction there because of that, and also because of what went on off the park.
“I was far from being an angel, but I think there could have been a bit of give and take.”
Your first medal came in the League Cup Final against Celtic in 1986. That must have been a very proud moment for you?
DF: “I remember on the morning of the game, I picked up a paper and Alex Ferguson had given man- by-man marks on who he thought would have an impact on the game – and I remember I got one of the lowest marks.
“I remember thinking, ‘I’m going to prove a point here’ and that day I was named Man of the Match.
“I’ll never forget Davie Cooper’s winning goal with just a couple of minutes to go. I swung over the free kick, and Big Terry Butcher was fouled by Roy Aitken for a penalty.
“To get my first medal and the Man of the Match prize was absolutely amazing. It was a fantastic day, and maybe I should have just enjoyed the night and then began to prepare for the next game.
“But we carried it on for the next few days which, in hindsight, was not the thing to do.
“The game is played by athletes now but back then it was played by guys of different shapes, and it wasn’t based just on fitness. It was all about what you could do with a ball at your feet.”
Do you regret not winning more Scotland caps?
DF: “Of course I would have liked to win more caps, but without going into too much detail, certain things happened.
“I don’t tend to look back though and think ‘if only’. I still think I was very lucky to become a professional footballer.
“People used to ask me if playing for Scotland would be the pinnacle of my career. But without belittling Scotland, playing for Rangers was the pinnacle for me.”
When you were transferred from Rangers, that wasn’t what you wanted?
DF: “I was absolutely gutted at the time. I had spoken to Graeme and he had told me I wasn’t going to feature in the next season.
“I told him I was going to stay and fight for my place, but he told me it wasn’t going to be that way, and I would be as well moving on.
“I took advice from my dad, who asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I just wanted to play football on a Saturday.
“It was traumatic, and I had two or three arguments with Graeme over it. I told him I wasn’t going – but the manager always wins.
“So I went through to Hearts, and I knew a couple of the boys that were already there.
“I never went out the door for three months after leaving Rangers though. I was devastated as I never wanted to leave. I knew things weren’t great between me and Graeme, but if I was older, I would probably have seen my time out at Rangers.
“Rangers was such a big part of my life. I knew everyone, and it felt like home.”
After Rangers, you were a bit of a journeyman. What kept you going?
DF: “Probably meeting all the characters at all the different clubs. Dressing rooms are great in football, and the banter is magic.
“What kept me going was waking up on a Saturday morning. There was always a nervous feeling, and I liked that. There was a buzz, and was like an addiction for me.”
Your brother Barry went on to play for both Rangers and Scotland. Did you always believe he had the talent to do so?
DF: “Barry always had a ball at his feet, and when he was eight or nine-years-old, I took him into Rangers to get a feel for the place.
“I spent hours with him out in the back garden too. You knew he had skill, and me, Barry and my dad used to play ‘heady football’ in the garden – my mum wasn’t too pleased with that right enough as we used to wreck the garden.
“As soon as he started playing though, you could see he had something. He would play with his head up and he always had a great first touch. As soon as he took that first touch, he knew where his next pass was going.
“We were chuffed to bits when he signed as a Rangers player. Barry was small at the age of 15 or 16, so there was a bit of a worry there.
“I’ll be honest though, I didn’t think he would go on to be the captain of Rangers and the captain of Scotland. He surpassed everything that we thought.”
Were you ever envious of how well Barry went on to do in the game?
DF: “He’s my wee brother, and I was desperate for him to become a footballer. I was stern with him as I had learned not to do certain things, and I didn’t want him to make the same mistakes as me.
“I think there was a two or three-year period where he didn’t like me as I was always on his back.”
Did you ever play against Barry?
DF: “I played against him when I was at Dunfermline. Rangers won 2-0, and he scored a peach of a goal.
“I couldn’t get near him that day and, as a team, we couldn’t get near Rangers either.”
What was that like?
DF: “It was weird, but playing against him helped me discover what he was really like.
“When you’re close-up to good players, you never get the chance to even put a tackle in as they pop the ball off and then they’re away.”
Who was the biggest influence in your career?
DF: “I’ve mentioned him two or three times already, but I would say my dad. He went everywhere with me when I was younger, as did my mum.
“I always knew if I had a good game, as he would just smile at me and tell me ‘well done son’.
“If I hadn’t played well though, he would tell me things I could maybe have done. But he never shouted at me.
“You get other help along the way though. I’ve played under some great managers and played with some great players too.”
What is your favourite game of all time?
DF: “Any time we beat Celtic!
“But probably the League Cup Final in 1986 when I played and we beat Celtic. Getting Man of the Match was great, but to play alongside Ian Durrant, one of my best pals at the time, was absolutely great.
“But just being at Rangers Football Club was what I wanted to do, and doing that was probably my biggest achievement.”