The 17-year-old Irish striker and the world at his feet The42

Updated 45 minutes ago

It’s hard to believe that Evan Ferguson is still only 17 years old.

The Ireland Under-21 striker’s name will remain on the radar of many Irish football fans for years now.

In 2019, when he was 14 years old, the young man made an unforgettable memory bohemian veil In a friendly match against Chelsea, where it soon became clear that the Dublin club had a player of great potential on its hands.

“It’s a lot different to go into the men’s dressing room, you go to the fans,” Ferguson says, remembering that day. “It was my first time with the fans so it’s like you’re walking on the pitch and you’re looking around and that’s very different from schoolboy football. It all depends on the result, it doesn’t matter if you play well, or you play poorly, it’s It’s all about winning at the end of the day.It’s a different mindset.

“I wouldn’t say it was hard, I kind of enjoyed it, because nobody else was really doing it. I was still in school and playing the game that night, it was weird.”

And what was the reaction of his school friends from Coláiste na hInse in Laytown when they unexpectedly saw him take to the field against a team run by Frank Lampard?

“I think it kind of blew up a bit. I didn’t know I was going to play, I knew I was on the bench but I didn’t know if I was going to play this or this or that or whatever. It was all kind of…Everyone knew that at that time “.

Since then, Ferguson’s image has skyrocketed even more. He’s appeared in a few Irish League matches before Completion of move to Brighton in January 2021.

“That’s all you think about growing up, imagine playing in the Premier League, imagine being in that lifestyle, this different kind of world, I feel like I’ve always wanted to do that, and now I’m here and I want to move on and keep doing that.”

Already, the meth-born player has made five appearances for the Seagulls, including his Premier League debut against Burnley last season and his first goal for the club last month during a 3-0 UEFA Cup win over Forest Green.

However, the majority of his performances so far have come at under-23 level and his form has been quite good, scoring the club’s first hat-trick in the win over Leicester earlier this month.

Next on the agenda is a home leg against Israel, as Jim Crawford’s side attempt to become the first Irish team to qualify for a major tournament at the under-21 level.

“You’ve been doing really well [at Brighton],” he says. “I came back and I’m still training hard and working hard. I’ve been training with the first team and played a few matches with the 23rd team and played in the Carabao Cup, so I’m so energized at the moment, I feel good.

“I guess it’s just day in and day out. I wouldn’t look back and really see myself kicking in, but I feel like I was getting better.”

Ferguson is not the only promising youngster at Brighton, with 18-year-old midfielder Andrew Moran recently signing a new contract. Three-year contract at the club.

“Yeah, Andy is doing really well for himself too. To be fair, it’s a good place for us because there’s a lot of Irish and we’ve been there for a while. So we settled on it, and Andy and I have a good relationship with each other, so it’s good.”

Ferguson has often been on the bench with Brighton in the Premier League, but he always remains in reserve, given the many talented players in their books and the fact that they are currently fourth in the table.

However, despite all this competition, the youngster is still determined to make that breakthrough into the first team sooner rather than later and is far from content with his stature as an underused individual.

“I think it would be frustrating for anyone if you’re on the bench week in, out and you don’t last. As a player, that’s what everyone is going to be, so it’s not like you’re happy, it’s frustrating because you don’t get the minutes that you want to get” .

What happens next in seagulls is not certain. Coach Graham Potter has just left Chelsea training, while Italian Roberto de Zerbi declared his successor.

“He’s been a good manager, and he’s been good to me, but I think an opportunity like this, he really can’t turn down,” Ferguson says of Potter, adding that he has yet to speak with the new manager.

“It hasn’t changed much [at Brighton]He’s just gone and running 23 seconds [temporarily] I got into the first team. It was kind of the same old stuff, really, because there weren’t any games, so there wasn’t much of a change.

“Obviously we got the new manager that day, so let’s now see what happens.”

And what is the impact of De Zerbe’s arrival at the club on Ferguson personally?

“He’ll come and say he’s going to have his own plan, so I’m not sure what’s going to happen now, to be honest.”

Asked if he had considered moving on loan to get more big football under his belt, the player added: “At the beginning of pre-season, I would have committed. I spoke to them and they said they wanted me pre-season at the start and see what happens from there. .

“I’m still there at the moment and we’ll see what happens.

“I feel like I’m going in the right direction. Just trying to get more playing time in and around the first team, that would be the next thing, just to try and get more minutes.”

Ferguson is far from being the only stunning young footballer currently on the fringes of top football.

Last weekend, 15-year-old Arsenal star Ethan Nwaneri became The youngest footballer in the English Premier League While Christopher Atherton on Glenavon, aged 13 years and 329 days, recently became Youngest player ever to line up in the UK.

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Unsurprisingly, having been in a similar boat, the Irish star sees no problem with footballers at such a young age.

“I imagine they’re training with the first team a little bit, I don’t think they’re tossed straight off the bench, they’ll get used to the environment. I’d say it’s been through the club and the parents and that. At the end of the day, it’s up to the kid, if he feels he’s going to be able to do it, then no.” I see a problem with that.

“It’s up to them at the end of the day, if he’s good enough there’s no reason why he can’t [play]. “

Of course, a strong model is key to going through this tax process, and Ferguson’s father, Barry, the same ex-footballer with stints at Coventry, Longford and Bohs among others, is well positioned to offer invaluable advice.

“He was fine with me growing up, and he wasn’t much pressure on me, really, say ‘You have to do this or that.’ If I wanted anything or needed to talk to him, he’d be there but I wouldn’t say there’s a lot of pressure, I don’t think That anyone really expects anything from a little kid playing that game — if you do, it’s more than a bonus.”

However, great expectations have been placed on Ferguson’s shoulders. The teenager started his last game for Ireland’s Under-21s – which is disappointing 4-1 loss to Italy – But he hopes to do enough to keep the starting point for the upcoming crucial matches against Israel.

Nothing is guaranteed, however, as Crawford rotated his striker during the playoffs, and the likes of Mibo Odobico and Joshua Cayud earned the highest time in the match.

“We’ll see what happens during training, obviously it’s a tough competition out there, everyone plays it every day and the other boys are good players, so it’s going to be tough.

“I hope to be in training this week and see what happens.”

Aaron Connolly, who has eight major caps and whom Ferguson knows well from their time together at Brighton, could also be on the line.

“We all know what he brings to the team, he’s fast and fast,” he adds. “Jim picked him for a reason and it’s good to see Aaron back in the team, he’ll do a little bit more for this team.”

Of course, such a strong competition bodes well with the Irish team on the verge of a historic achievement.

“It would be a proud moment for all of us if we did. It will obviously be difficult to do now, but I think we will give ourselves a good chance and it will be worth it if we do.”