Muirkirk, Ayrshire born left half Willie Ferguson began his football career with Kellsbank Juveniles in 1917 and played for Kello Rovers in 1918 before he first joined fledgling Queen of the South in 1919 on their formation, initially as a left winger. At a regional level, Queens won many cups in the Southern Counties regional set up. Playing in the Western League, Queens were runners up in 1921-22. Queens then created something of a sensation with the signing coup of Joe Dodds from Celtic. With further experience provided on the pitch by ex-Liverpool player Bob McDougall, Queens won the Western League in 1922-23 with a 20 game unbeaten League campaign.
At the same time that Queen of the South prepared to join The Scottish League after their successful application in 1923, Ferguson was sold during the 1923 close season to First Division Chelsea, where he made his Football League debut against Blackburn Rovers that September. Ferguson was the fourth of the players at the club in its first three seasons who would go on build successful careers in England’s top division, the others were Dave Halliday, Ian Dickson and Hughie Gallacher.
Ferguson made 29 appearances during his maiden campaign for Chelsea, however they were relegated at the end of the season. Converting to the left half position from October 1924, Ferguson became a mainstay of Chelsea’s Second Division team during the 1920’s that chased a return to the top flight, twice finishing third in 1926 and 1928 when only the top two teams were promoted. Ferguson was an ever present in 1926-27 as they finished fourth, and missed only one game in 1927-28 as they went one place better. They finally reached the First Division again in 1929-30 as Second Division runners up, however Ferguson missed most of the season, scoring twice in only 11 appearances during the campaign.
Once promoted to the First Division, he was in and out of the team during the next three seasons, playing around half of Chelsea’s matches, before, and he was part of Chelsea’s team that reached the 1932 FA Cup semi final, where they lost 2-1 to eventual winners Newcastle United at Leeds Road, Huddersfield. Having scored 11 goals in 285 appearances during his ten seasons at Stamford Bridge, he returned to Scotland re-joining Queen of the South in the summer of 1933 ahead of the club’s debut season in Scottish Football’s top division, Described as “Naturally a constructive player, Ferguson is ever scheming original moves”, it was also said of him in 1935 that he had “helped considerably to develop the team work which made Queen’s one of the most attractive sides in the country”.
As a player Ferguson was part of two landmark events in the history of Queen of the South, firstly he was a member of The Doonhamers’ highly successful first season in the top division finishing fourth – their highest finish to date. Queens also made it to the quarter finals of the Scottish Cup for the first time. Secondly he was part of the 16 player squad for the 11 game 1936 overseas tour and the Algiers invitational tournament. Queens returned with the trophy after beating Racing de Santander in the Final.
After combining playing with coaching the reserve side in the last year and earning much praise Ferguson took over from George McLachlan as Queens’ manager in 1937. Ferguson gave Jackie Oakes his first team debut shortly after taking over. Ferguson’s most notable result as manager was at Ibrox Park, the first time when Queens condemned Rangers to a League defeat (Queens had condemned Rangers to a Scottish Cup defeat the season before at Palmerston Park). Phil Watson in 1938 was another player signed by Ferguson, and it was a surprise when he announced his resignation in the summer of 1938. He was succeeded as manager by Jimmy McKinnell Sr on 2nd July 1938, the day on which Ferguson’s contracted was terminated after his resignation.
Ferguson’s younger brother Pearson played football for Ayr United, Cork and Queen of the South, playing 5 matches for The Doonhamers in 1932-33 but never in the same team as Willie, before moving south of the border to join Carlisle United where he finished his career in 1935.