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How Big Dunc was sold without manager’s knowledge

New signing Duncan Ferguson with Newcastle United manager Ruud Gullit at a press conference at the club’s ground. (Image: Owen Humphreys/PA)

ECHO Head of Sport David Prentice has written a book called A Grand Old Team to Report on his 45 years of following the Blues.

In the first extract today, he recalls how Goodison Idol Duncan Ferguson was sold by chairman Peter Johnson without manager Walter Smith’s knowledge.

Walter was his usual genial self when I walked in, until I told him that the Echo had reservations about his claims to have been unaware of Ferguson’s sale.

His face darkened to the colour of deep purple as he snapped: “Don’t you f**ing move. You’re sitting there until you hear him on the phone tell you I knew nothing about that transfer!” then proceeded to dial Peter Johnson’s number.

He tried his mobile phone. His home. His office number. The number for his yacht.

Peter had gone to ground. Again. As every answer machine message kicked in the phone was in mortal danger of being slammed through his office desk. I’d seen enough.

“Okay Walter. Calm down,” I said. “I believe you, and I’ll try and convince them in the office you knew nothing about it.”

And eventually I did. But not helped by Peter’s partner, my old school pal Lorraine Rogers, who had been in touch with the Echo, but hadn’t asked for me.

She went directly to the newsdesk, where she informed them that Walter had been aware of the sale, but that Peter was nobly taking all the flak for the good of the club.

The newsdesk preferred my version of events.

Walter made it clear that unless a statement was issued by the club confirming he had been unaware of the sale, he would resign. He meant it. The chairman’s position at the club had become untenable.