Everton fan Joey Barton set for emotional battle with ‘iconic’ Duncan Ferguson

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Joey Barton will do battle with his childhood hero Duncan Ferguson when Bristol Rovers travel to Forest Green.

There's an old saying to never meet your heroes, but on Saturday, Joey Barton will have to do just that when his Bristol Rovers side face Forest Green Rovers this weekend.

In charge in the opposition dugout at the New Lawn in what is his first permanent job in senior management is former Scotland striker Duncan Ferguson. After leaving Everton in the summer, the Scotsman waited for an opportunity to pop up and when Ian Burchnall was sacked in January, he took the job at the League One strugglers.

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The 51-year-old had two separate stints as caretaker manager at Goodsion Park was never given the top job with the Toffees despite numerous calls from supporters. When the job came available on several ooccasions, Barton suggested on social media that the team he supports should hire him, but instead they’d go elsewhere and appoint Carlo Ancelotti, Rafael Benitez and Frank Lampard with mixed success.

Growing up, Barton was and still is a fan of Everton, and despite not making the grade with the blue half of Merseyside, they still hold a place in his heart. His opponent Ferguson, is 11-years his senior and when Barton as a teenager idolised Ferguson, who was a hero amongst the Everton fan base.

Ferguson had two spells as a player with Everton, scoring 42 goals in 133 matches in his first time at the club before he was controversially sold to Newcastle United, and then he returned in August 2000. He scored 30 goals in 140 appearances, and in total spent ten-and-a-half seasons of his career with Everton, making 260 appearances for them, scoring 67 goals and 10 assists, winning the FA Cup in 1995.

“He was the best player at Everton when I was growing up as a kid,” said Barton. I remember his goals against Manchester United and we didn’t have a fantastic team at the time.

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“Duncan was iconic for Everton fans and certainly my generation. Afterward when I’ve met him in and around the club when I’ve been to and played Everton, he’s been exemplary. He’s a top-class fella, I’ve exchanged a few back-and-forths with him when he got the job in the midst of I haven’t since he’s got the job because we’re now competing with one another.

“I don’t want to be a bit of a fanboy, I don’t have many people that I look up to. As a kid, Duncan was iconic and still with Evertonians, and he’s still regarded by the blue half of Merseyside for the job he done there. As I’ll say I’ll have to put that aside on Saturday, so we can give them a good going over and take three points.

“It’ll be tough and I don’t want Dunc’s first win to be against me. I’ll have to park my admiration for him for ninety minutes on Saturday that’s for sure.”

Ferguson has so far overseen seven matches at FGR, but is yet to record a win with two draws and five defeats. The Nailsworth-club are rock bottom of the third tier and are 11 points adrift of safety and Accrington Stanley hold two games in hand over them. FGR are on a winless run of 15 matches across all competitions and have not tasted victory since mid-December.

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Since his appointment in late-January, things have slightly improved with several reinforcements such as Charlie Savage, son of former Wales midfielder Robbie. Except for a 4-0 defeat to promotion-chasing Ipswich Town and a 2-0 loss to Shrewsbury Town, FGR have only lost by a one-goal margin in the five defeats he’s overseen.

One of Forest Green’s five wins came under Burchnall on the opening day of the Memorial Stadium, but so much has changed since then. Jordan Moore-Taylor and Regan Hendry were on target for the reigning League Two champions, seven months on however, it is Rovers who are the firm favourites and the likeliest to survive out of the pair after winning promotion.

“I have to be mindful here because every time I tell you candidly what I think we get our a***s handed to us,” said Barton. They’ve definitely picked up. He’s a class act Duncan, Tony Grant has gone in with him there. The players have responded for that, it hasn’t quite materialised at this moment into a win or the points they would have been looking for.

He added: “Their endeavour and their attitude, they are certainly competing. They will be looking at it where Duncan will want to get his first win. They’ll think we’re a good opportunity to do that against a mid-table team as they’ll see it.

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“We have to be ruthless, from our perspective we’ve still got our own ambitions and local bragging rights. Also for just finishing the season strong and not tasting defeat, we’ve had enough of them in recent months. We don’t wanna taste that again if we can help it.”

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