He sensibly accepted Duncan Ferguson's offer of a high-five towards the end of Everton's precious victory over Charlton Athletic on Monday, but any suggestion the Scot's rare display of public affection symbolised his passing of the torch was rejected by James Beattie yesterday, who insisted he would lead attempts to talk the 34-year-old out of an early retirement this month.
Ferguson has informed the Everton manager, David Moyes, that his body can no longer sustain the demands of a Premiership season and would rather quit during this transfer window than become a bit-part player at the club where he still commands hero worship.
However, he damaged those prospects with an impressive display in the 3-1 defeat of Alan Curbishley's team, his first start since 6 November, and strike partner Beattie believes that he can still have a major influence on Everton's fight against relegation.
"Duncan can definitely play a part in the second half of the season," Beattie said. "Duncan's had a tremendous career and he's a legend here. We would not want to see him call it a day. We will be trying to persuade him in every way we can, and I'd like to see him stay on."
He added: "Duncan's his own man and will make his own decision, but he was captain against Charlton and produced a great performance on and off the pitch. At half-time he was giving the team-talk before the gaffer came in, he was shouting and telling people what to do.
"That's the respect he has at this club - all the fans love him and he has got the utmost respect in the dressing-room."
Ferguson's presence clearly benefited Beattie as he maintained his own gradual return to form and showed why, should he go through with his threat to retire, Everton will step up their interest in Celtic's Chris Sutton.
Another player finding a vein of form at a crucial time for the club is Tim Cahill. The Australian international midfielder had not scored for the club since the final match of last season, but he returned to form over the holiday period with three in two matches. Moyes said: "When Tim is buzzing then so is the team. We have missed his goals."
Cahill finished top scorer last season with 12 goals and he opened his account with an injury-time header at Sunderland on Saturday before adding two more against Charlton.
Beattie said: "In the last couple of games Tim has had a smile on his face. He has put in some of his best performances and looks like the Tim Cahill of last year and that is who we want playing for Everton."
Cahill said he was relieved to have broken his duck. "I am just delighted to have finally got off the mark for the season, but as long as we win it doesn't matter who scores the goals. What we now have to do is to get a string of results together. I try my very hardest in every game I play but the goals, when they come, are a real bonus."Reuse content