FORMER Newcastle United favourite Duncan Ferguson has opened up for the first time about how he believes his infamous jail sentence all but ruined what had been a promising career.
The controversial Scot, an £8m signing by Ruud Gullit in November 1998, spent 44 days in Glasgow’s notorious Barlinnie prison in 1995 for butting Raith Rovers defender Jock McStay during a game while he was a Rangers player.
Ferguson, now 41, became the first professional British footballer to be jailed for an on-field assault.
While his career earned him millions and he enjoyed cult status with the Toon Army, and especially with Everton, he never reached the heights expected of him.
Injuries played their part, but Ferguson, who retired in 2006, has revealed he felt betrayed by the Scottish Football Association who he blamed for not backing him in his darkest hour.
Ferguson said: “I don’t like the attention and haven’t done many interviews.
“People write stories about you and you gain a reputation and that’s that.
“I have spent an entire career trying to shake off a reputation I earned in one day.
“That’s the way it has been for me, but I have never been someone who is that bothered about things I can’t control.
“Any problems I had during my time in England were all on the park and were part and parcel of football, but my situation with Scotland has stayed with me throughout it all.
“It’s a massive void. I have thought about it a lot over my career and people who know me will tell you I wanted to play 100 times for my country.
“I wish I’d broken the all-time cap record and scored more goals than the lot of them.“ ”
He added: “I could have gained the caps as I made my debut when I was just 20 and was still being asked to play aged 34.
“It was my last year at Everton in 2006 and it was probably the last time I spoke to Ally McCoist.
“Walter Smith was the Scotland manager and he asked Coisty to see if I would come back.
“That was 14 years after my debut and it remains a huge regret of mine that I didn’t win 100 caps for Scotland. I could have said ‘yes’ but because of the situation with the SFA I dug my heels in. I still believe I was right to do that.
“That doesn’t change my belief I could have won 100 caps as I was capable of being in that squad over the 14 years.
“As it happens I have only seven caps. To me that’s unbelievable, but what can you do?”
Ferguson is now a coach at Everton, where he spent two spells either side of his stay on Tyneside.
Rangers paid a then British record of £4m for him in 1993 when he moved from Dundee United, where his reputation was of a young man destined for stardom – but only if he kept out of trouble.
One FA Cup winner’s medal, from a 1995 final victory with Everton over Manchester United, and an SPL title medal with Rangers are scant reward for a striker who, when fit and on form, was as fearsome as any in European football.
Ferguson scored twice on his Newcastle debut, against Wimbledon at St James’ Park, but his body let him down and he managed just seven appearances in the 1998-99 season.
This, along with his prison sentence, was the story of his career.
Ferguson said: “It’s fair comment people will look at my career and say I didn’t do this or that and I missed lots of games. I did have injury problems and I have scars all over my body to prove it.
“I had about a dozen operations which scuppered parts of my career and my development.
“There was a pattern of getting fit then injured then getting fit again and there were also a few suspensions thrown in as well.
“So I never quite managed to get that run of consistency in my career. It was always stop, start.
“It is there to be thrown at me that I did not play that many games.”