Exclusive: Alan Shearer has 'no doubt' that Duncan Ferguson was harder than Roy Keane
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No player has had more red cards in the Premier League than Ferguson, who is level with Patrick Vieira and Richard Dunne on eight dismissals.
In 1994, when playing for Rangers, he became the first British player to be jailed for an on-field incident after being hit with a three-month prison sentence for headbutting John McStay.
In addition to the 44 days he served in the city's Barlinnie prison, Ferguson received a 12-game ban from the Scottish FA.
In 2019, he described the incident as "nothing".
Shearer, who wasn't lacking a nasty side himself on the pitch, shared a dressing room with Ferguson at Newcastle and also played against him when he was Everton, where he played 273 times across two spells.
And he was happy to admit that 'Big Dunc' is football's ultimate hardman.
“There’s no doubt about it. ‘Big Dunc," Shearer said when SPORTbible asked who was harder out of Keane and Ferguson in an interview to celebrate the 30 year anniversary of the Premier League.
"Big Dunc’s the hardest player I’ve come across – both playing against and for.
“I was lucky enough to play with him at Newcastle and stand alongside him in the tunnel. He had such a presence and other teams were petrified of him.
“He was as hard as they come. Both on the pitch and off the pitch. He has this aura around him doesn’t he, you wouldn’t want to push him to ask him again – you'd just say, ‘OK, no problem Dunc.
“To have him on your side, it was a lot better having him on it than off it. You definitely wouldn’t want to go in a fight with ‘Big Dunc’ that’s for sure.”
Memorably, Keane was sent off in the closing moments of Newcastle's 4-3 win over Manchester United in 2001 after throwing the ball at Shearer and slapping him.
“He was waiting for me at the tunnel at Newcastle," Shearer recalled.
"We couldn’t get together. Everyone stopped us, there were too many players.
“I didn’t know Roy at all, I don’t know him that well now and haven’t spent much time with him. But when I have, in terms of the TV studio, he’s been fine.
“That’s the thing, when you’re a player, because you’re so wrapped up in what you’re trying to do in wanting to win and protecting your team, you don’t actually know what somebody’s personality is like.
“That’s the good thing about leaving football and going into the media. You go into the studio and you’re like, ‘You know what actually he’s alright’. ‘I didn’t actually like him on the pitch but that’s acceptable’.
“Probably a lot of people thought that about me and that’s a sign of respect. It doesn’t matter if no-one likes you on the pitch because you have to be horrible and that’s the way it was.”
The Premier League was launched with its first game on 15 August 1992 - a 2-1 win for Sheffield United against Manchester United.
In 1994/95, Shearer got his hands on the coveted trophy after hitting 34 goals in 42 games for Kenny Dalglish's Blackburn side, who pipped United to the title despite losing to Liverpool at Anfield on the final day.
It was the culmination of a dream for local businessman Jack Walker, who bought Rovers when they were in the second tier.
Asked for his favourite Premier League memory, Shearer said: “Little old Blackburn coming into the Premier League and taking on the might of Man United and Liverpool and all those huge football clubs and beating them after three years.
“That was an unbelievable highlight because that was what was sold to me when I went for talks at the Haydock Thistle hotel with Kenny Dalglish, Robert Coar, the chairman and Jack Walker.
“They told me that was going to happen, they’re in this to win the Premier League so for us to come in and actually achieve that.
“Winning the league with Blackburn [was] similar to Leicester – the difference was nobody saw Leicester coming. "Everyone knew that Blackburn were coming to try and challenge the big boys and we did that.
“That [Leicester's title win] was probably the biggest surprise of the Premier League.
“Man United were chasing us down the whole way due to our inexperience. From our point of view it was just huge relief and from my point of view it justified my decision going to Blackburn.
“We managed to get over the line and have one hell of a party.”
Shearer is the record Premier League goalscorer with a whopping 260 goals and picked up three Golden Boots in his decorated career. But what is his most proud accomplishment from his playing days?
"I think the biggest thing that happened to me was being England captain," he explained.
"I don’t think it gets any bigger or any better than that.
“In terms of the greatest feeling that I had, that was when I broke the Newcastle goalscoring record in front of my dad’s hero Jackie Milburn.
“For me to do it at Newcastle, at St James’ Park, in front of my people if you like – I used to stand at the Gallowgate and watch my hero Kevin Keegan so to do it at that end, that was probably the best feeling I had on a football pitch."
Shearer found it difficult so single out just one player for the best forward in Premier League history, instead name-dropping some of the greats and tipping the two new boys, Erling Haaland and Darwin Nunez, to achieve big things.
He said: “Rooney’s second [on the all-time goalscorer list] isn’t he? When I look at Thierry [Henry] he was certainly more graceful and elegant on the eye than I was.
“[Sergio] Aguero was an incredible goalscorer, with his low sense of gravity because he was so strong from the hips down – the power in his legs. Those are the guys. We’ve had some incredible forwards over the years.
“We’re about to witness another one in Haaland and Nunez also, he’ll be a fantastic player at Liverpool.”
The PL30 campaign launched on Monday 8 August, when the Premier League Trophy began a seven-week tour of England and Wales, visiting all 20 Premier League clubs, as well as EFL, non-league and women’s clubs who have benefited from Premier League investment.
Each club on the Trophy Tour will name a Community Captain – one of the many people who have been a part of the Premier League’s success and had a positive impact on the lives of people connected to their football club.
Fans are encouraged to share their favourite memories with the #PL30 hashtag.