Football: Ferguson rises to occasion

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The Independent Online
DUNCAN FERGUSON'S mercurial career may shortly take him from Tayside to Bavaria - via Lisbon - following a display which gave Scotland considerable consolation for a 1-0 defeat by Germany in the friendly at Ibrox.

The gangling Dundee United striker with the skills of an old fashioned inside-forward played with such panache and power against the world champions that Karl-Heinz Rummenigge admitted he would be reporting back favourably to Bayern Munich, where he is vice-president.

Ferguson, who executed one thunderous scissors-kick, won numerous aerial challenges and ended up being slavishly tailed by Guido Buchwald, now looks certain to partner the similarly extrovert Ally McCoist in Scotland's World Cup qualifier against Portugal in the Stadium of Light next month.

However, the national coach, Andy Roxburgh, yesterday warned against going 'over the top' about him. His caution reflects concern about the 21-year-old's ability to handle the pressures of stardom.

Disciplinary problems, not necessarily of his own making, have tended to dog Ferguson. After what might euphemistically be called high jinks on Scotland's trips to North America and Sweden last summer, team-mates dubbed him 'Duncan Disorderly'.

He was then left out of the United side after a dispute with the manager, Jim McLean, over a club fine; there was also a conviction for assault in his home town, Stirling. Roxburgh, who had capped him three times before he scored at any level for Scotland, omitted him from the senior squad until Wednesday night.

After last month's defeat of Malta, Roxburgh compared the now-injured Eoin Jess with Kenny Dalglish. Those expecting him to liken Ferguson to Joe Jordan, Scotland's last consistently effective target man, were disappointed.

'I don't want to build Duncan up as a world-beater,' Roxburgh said. 'I've seen it happen before - players with great potential who suffer from over-the-top hype and expectations that become too much for them. He's had a traumatic year and has had to learn the reality and harshness of the business.'

At least Ferguson's low boredom threshold may be a thing of the past, as Roxburgh revealed. 'We've now discovered a way to keep Duncan happy at training camp - video games. I watched him playing ice hockey on a big screen, and he's an absolute wizard.'

In a team studded with understudies, the other player to enhance his reputation was Alan McLaren, a veritable veteran of six caps. The 22-year-old from Heart of Midlothian subdued Jurgen Klinsmann much as he did Roberto Baggio last November; useful practice, perhaps, for Paulo Futre next month.

While the Germans were scraping through in Glasgow, Italy moved to the top of Group One by beating Malta 6-1. The next fixture is in Berne next Wednesday, when Roxburgh will be watching in the hope that Portugal can peg back Switzerland.

Meanwhile, media reaction in Scotland and Germany offered a fascinating contrast yesterday. A Daily Record headline across two pages proclaimed 'The glory's all ours', whereas the victors returned to find Bild describing their showing as 'miserable' and Kicker dismissing them as 'lucky'.

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