English soccer has solely simply been launched to Evan Ferguson, the Brighton striker who has impressed with a string of high-quality performances in his debut Premier League season.
In his native Republic of Eire, nevertheless, there was hype across the teenager for numerous years.
On Thursday, the 18-year-old is ready to face Manchester United, the membership he grew up supporting, and with whom he has a household hyperlink – his great-uncle Damien was on the books at Previous Trafford within the late Nineteen Sixties and early Nineteen Seventies.
In his homeland, the youthful Ferguson’s breakthrough at Brighton has drawn comparisons with a former United nice – Wayne Rooney.
Rooney memorably burst on to the Premier League scene as a 16-year-old in 2002 with a last-minute winner for Everton in opposition to Arsenal – and his former youth coach can see an analogous story unfolding now.
“I keep in mind the response to Rooney and that objective for Everton in opposition to Arsenal. I can see that kind of factor with Evan,” Karl Lamb, who coached Ferguson for eight years at St Kevin’s Soccer Membership, tells BBC Sport.
“He’s this factor Eire have been crying out for for possibly 10 or 15 years. In England, it’s like ‘this lad has come out of nowhere’ whereas in Eire it’s, ‘this lad is the good hope’.”
‘Technically and tactically, he was miles forward’
Ferguson’s soccer connection stretches all through his household. His father Barry was on Coventry’s books, and had transient mortgage spells with Colchester, Hartlepool and Northampton earlier than spending the majority of his enjoying profession within the Republic, and now works for the Soccer Affiliation of Eire.
He took his son alongside to St Kevin’s on the age of 4. The membership had a tie in with Bohemians, Ferguson’s first skilled membership, till lately and so they stay associates; he performed three senior video games for them earlier than heading for England.
“We had been managing Bohemians’ academy groups – they performed in our floor, skilled with us, we appointed the coaches,” St Kevin’s chairman Michael O’Callaghan says.
“At 14, Evan went to there. A change of jersey was the principle distinction for him.”
Since Brexit, British golf equipment haven’t been capable of signal gamers from the Republic of Eire till they flip 18 – however Brighton had been capable of convey him over at 16 as a result of he has an English mom.
His expertise had been clear from a younger age. Lamb, who labored with Ferguson from when he was six, may see the flexibility.
“Bodily, Evan has at all times been an enormous lad, however he performed soccer technically, tactically and by way of determination making, miles forward of different individuals,” he says.
“He not often relied on his physique. He would see one thing and take a look at it, and that adopted him all over.”
‘We knew he was destined for good issues’
Proper via the age teams, Ferguson left a mark. St Kevin’s is among the most prestigious golf equipment in Eire, boasting Damien Duff and Liam Brady amongst its alumni, and so they usually confronted off in opposition to elite academies.
“We had the Academy Cup, the place the likes of Barcelona, Actual Madrid and Arsenal came visiting. Lots of people suppose that was when Evan actually blossomed,” O’Callaghan remembers.
Lamb provides: “We took that group throughout Europe. Gavi at Barcelona is Evan’s age and he would have performed in opposition to him quite a few occasions. We had a very good group and we made positive to check them; Evan at all times scored.
“He had a contact of sophistication; he’d be the one participant you’d select of our group and put within the opposition’s group and he’d have been comfy.”
Nationwide and worldwide consideration got here in July 2019, when aged 14, Ferguson made a substitute look for Bohemians in opposition to Chelsea in a pre-season pleasant,
“Evan was put into the squad and performed; we questioned that,” says O’Callaghan. “Ought to a 14-year-old be in a dressing room with adults? He received a runout. We knew he was destined for good issues.”
Lamb says with a chuckle: “The Chelsea factor for me was like ‘oh, he is hit one other milestone’, however once you take a step again, it should not be taking place.
“It kickstarted the correct hype round him, taking it nationwide and outdoors Eire. That was when the insanity began.”
Regardless of the hype, Ferguson’s household have saved his ft on the bottom.
“He simply went again to being typical Evan,” Lamb says.
“He is nonetheless typical Evan, a very nice lad. He comes from a terrific background, his household are excellent. They deserve essentially the most credit score for a way Evan has turned out as an individual.”
O’Callaghan says: “I have been chairman of the membership since 1996. I by no means launched myself to him however Evan would stroll over, shake my hand and say thanks for all of the work I used to be doing.
“This can be a 14 12 months outdated boy; you aren’t getting youngsters doing that. He noticed the larger image.”
‘Brighton are good for him’
Curiosity in Ferguson was at all times excessive, however Brighton’s means to identify potential paid dividends and he signed for them in 2021. Final week, he signed a brand new contract committing him to the Seagulls till 2028.
“Liverpool, Manchester United and Everton had been in for him from an early age,” Lamb remembers.
“It’s an instance of how sensible he and his household are that when he went on trial with Brighton, he liked it. I believe, if any large golf equipment had come again in, he’d nonetheless have chosen Brighton.
“The way in which Brighton use him, in his personal half dropping in, linking play along with his again to objective and within the opposition half operating in behind, you see how good he’s at it. He assaults house rather well. That for me is the proper soccer fashion for him.”
This season, he has scored 4 targets in 14 video games and can also be thriving on the worldwide stage, marking his first Republic of Eire begin with a objective in opposition to Latvia.
The noise round Ferguson will not be going away.
“Someone informed me that I needed to attempt to quieten issues down, however it is vitally troublesome,” Lamb says. “If he retains doing these items, it’s onerous to not get excited.”