Evan Ferguson: The process of making Brighton striker who could develop into a £100m player | Football news

There’s the sheer power of the first, then the speed and accuracy of the second.

When Brighton qualified for the European Cup for the first time in the club’s history with the help of Evan Ferguson’s two goals against Southampton on Sunday, there was a celebration of what was to come, but also there’s a bit of regret for what might have happened.

If the kid can become king without missing out for nearly a month because of an ankle injury, the south coast club are confident they will keep Newcastle and Manchester United nervous about a Champions League spot, while reach the FA Cup final at the expense of the latter.

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WATCH FREE: Highlights from the Premier League clash between Brighton and Southampton

At just 18 years old, the influence Ferguson had made during his breakthrough season on both Brighton’s attack and defence was clear enough that some of the sharpest minds in football declared that he had could develop into a £100m player.

No one involved in the formative years of the Republic of Ireland national team would take that as an exaggeration. Those who worked with Ferguson now believe we are seeing a live performance of a great Premier League taking shape.

Is that too much expectation and pressure for a teenager? The answer “no” is clear from those who know him best.


First years

Karl Lambe first met Ferguson at the age of six at the prestigious St Kevin’s Football Club in Dublin. “He first told me at the age of eight that he wanted to play in the Premier League, and he said it convincingly,” Lambe said. Sky Sports News.

“Since then, he’s hit every milestone with the same focus that he’s on this journey to get there, a map he’s drawn in his head.

“They seem pretty trivial now when you talk about the bigger plan of scoring and playing in the Premier League or representing Ireland, but for example when we were under-8s he scored five goals. to win the tournament.

“There was a newspaper with the headline ‘Evan sent in’ and he kept serving. There was a U11 cup final, it was his favorite where he scored four goals and ant We’ll go on tour and face teams like Barcelona, ​​whose players already have millions of social media followers and huge reputations, but he’s new. He’s the one who stands out. He’s never been out of place on the football field.”

Neil Fox, who worked with Ferguson at St Kevin’s and at Ireland’s youth level, said: “I can’t remember we said ‘he’s something else. He’s something really special’ in how long.”

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Ferguson scored a beautiful opening goal for the Seagulls in a 2-0 win over Bournemouth

When did that feeling reach the outside world? “We played Barcelona at home and away with a host of top European players, so in the school football bubble with academy scouts, it was no secret,” Lambe said. secret how great the potential is.

“We played Manchester United at Carrington and he scored twice for the Under-10s. They attacked us but he scored twice and people started to notice him when we got back to Dublin. A few months later, scouts from the big English clubs used to regularly attend our matches.

“But at the age of 14 when he was still a schoolboy, the Bohemians called him to represent their first team against Chelsea and that’s when it really hit. He came on the pitch and was very pleased. outspoken, dribbling, dribbling, beating the experienced Premier League League defenders.

“I suppose Chelsea didn’t know that he was 14 when he came on and they treated him like any normal player.”

Evan Ferguson (left) celebrates with teammates after scoring
Ferguson (left) celebrates with teammates after scoring

Ferguson displayed unbelievable traits for his age long before he gained more media attention in that friendly, which was Frank Lampard’s first game in charge of Chelsea.

“I go back to the under-8s, where most kids get the ball and just want to run to goal and score,” Lambe said. “And obviously Evan is really good so he can do it, but he’s made great decisions, even at a young age. Now you see that with Brighton and the way he is sometimes. running behind, sometimes he puts in the gaps. He’s had that game intelligence and understanding of the game since I was little. He’s not like a normal kid just running around. around aimlessly with the ball.”

A complete player

One of Ferguson’s greatest strengths was the variety of his play, which stemmed from learning different positions during his early years, with a particular focus on midfield.

Lambe said: “We lost 5-0 to Barca once after 10 minutes and I put him at center back to stop the goals and he did. “We don’t want to make that habit and I can say that from about 12 years old he started being attracted to being a striker who can also function as a playmaker.

“We were playing in an all-Ireland final at the Under-14s, and as the teams were walking out onto the pitch, one of the boys pulled up. I said to Evan, ‘you’re in midfield’ when he was playing. prepare to hit the field and he’s the man of the match!”

Evan Ferguson of the Republic of Ireland celebrates scoring his team's second goal against Latvia
Ferguson celebrates scoring for the Republic of Ireland against Latvia

Ferguson’s linked play and passing vision certainly make someone who reads the game like a midfielder scream.

“I think that helped me become more natural as a modern striker,” said the teenager. Sky Sports News. “You see strikers now, like Harry Kane, the way they cross in… I wouldn’t be surprised if he played midfield as a kid.

“I can understand what kind of run to make or when to delay a pass. That helps me improve.”

Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbi insisted Ferguson was “not an ordinary 18-year-old” thanks to his outstanding technical and physical development.

“He has been a great player,” the Italian declared. “I think he’s going to be one of the best players, the best strikers in the Premier League.”

De Zerbi was impressed with how quickly Ferguson absorbed his tactical demands and how effectively he was able to execute them.

There was no goal he couldn’t score on: overtaking and bullying William Saliba before waiting for Aaron Ramsdale to cross and slit beneath him, touch, turn and shoot into the net of Grimsby in the FA Cup, Accurate high headers and low shots.

Evan Ferguson scores Brighton's second goal against Grimsby
Ferguson scored Brighton’s second goal against Grimsby

“He’s a football player,” Lambe said. “He’s pretty big, tall and strong but he’s not the type of guy who likes to play ball or a traditional goal. There’s nothing lacking in technique in his game. He can play!”

Although physically superior to his opponents as a child, Ferguson chose to use a skill that was superior to his size. “The game against Everton in January, he got a yellow card for a foul that stopped the game. It was the first time I’ve seen Evan involved in such a thing,” Lambe said.

“So even though he’s big, he never engages in bullying or that physical use. We actually told him ‘you can use it a lot.’ a little more’, but he never.

Cox added: “He was constantly relying on his play and his ability to play. “He’s never been the type to rush into tackles and dominate games physically, he’s going to be the best player on the pitch by reading the game better than anyone else. “

Brighton attack gold

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Kylian Mbappe says Ferguson is a ‘good striker’ after seeing a clip of him ahead of France’s Euro 2024 qualifier against the Republic of Ireland

Ferguson has tried with Liverpool, Manchester United, Everton and Celtic, but it was Brighton who charted a clear path to the first team. Their academy manager, John Morling, followed Ferguson, having worked for the FAI with his father Barry before joining the Seagulls.

After watching development at St Kevin’s and Bohemians, he believed the boy could shine among men.

Mark Beard, Brighton’s Under-18s coach at the time, thought it was silly to include a 14-year-old boy in training with his group, but he said: “Evan quickly became the standout player in every single game. training session. The first team will be noticed and asked about him.”

Brighton has reached a gentleman’s agreement with the Ferguson family that he will join them when he can officially turn 16 – due to his mother’s English heritage Sarah has flouted the rules of Brexit.

“When you look at the big picture, when you’re invited to Liverpool and Man Utd, it’s a huge thing. Those clubs are as big as you can go to Ireland,” Cox said. “But I think it shows where his mind is, that he doesn’t care about the status, the title or the money made from doing that kind of transfer.

“He signed for Brighton because he was looking at his career and said, ‘I’m going to try here and I’m going to be noticed and I’m going to have a chance. disrespect to the bigger clubs, but we all agree he made the right decision to come to Brighton.

“He will achieve everything he intends to do because his mind and heart are in the right place to be the best footballer he can be.

“Evan was exposed to hype, responsibility and expectations before he was 10 years old and he does everything in his power because he has a great support system from his parents. They haven’t yet. never push or force him to do anything or get too involved or pressure his development.

“There are nightmare parents in school football but they are a dream. He gets a sense of calm from them. Evan could go on and become the £100m player mentioned, but that won’t change who and how he is – it’s a credit to him and his family.”

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