Expectations should always be tempered when it comes to bright young prospects in the Premier League – but Evan Ferguson is making that nigh-on impossible.
The Brighton striker blew everyone away on Saturday when he scored three goals against Newcastle United, who were one of the division’s stingiest defences last season, for the first hat-trick of his senior career.
It was the Irishman’s “I’m him” moment, announcing himself to the world in front of the Sky Sports cameras after an impressive first 19 months in the first team. And he only turns 19 this year.
The numbers speak for themselves. Ferguson is only the fourth player to score a Premier League hat-trick aged 18 or younger, after Chris Bart-Williams, Robbie Fowler, and Michael Owen, who did it three times for Liverpool.
The centre-forward has now been involved in 12 Premier League goals since his debut in February 2022, scoring 10 goals and providing two assists. After Cesc Fabregas, he’s just the second non-English player to register at least 10 goal involvements aged 18 or younger in the competition.
Those kind of statistics put him in elite territory when you see some of the names of the players who achieved similar feats.
At this stage it would behoove this writer to take his own advice from the top of this article, but I’m going to make another comparison with a Premier League great: Evan Ferguson reminds one of Harry Kane.
They have a similar height and build, although if anything Ferguson appears more physically impressive, and he likes to drop deep in build-up play like the England striker, but above all he’s such a clinical finisher already. To borrow a football cliché, he knows his way to goal.
The Bettystown native grew up in the right environment to become the player he is. His father, Barry, was a professional footballer who played in England and Ireland, and he is currently the Director of Football for the DDSL – the biggest schoolboy and schoolgirl league in Europe. So it’s fair to say he knows a thing or two about helping youngsters learn the ropes of the game.
As Evan revealed after his stunning performance against Newcastle, his dad has been a huge influence and help in his career to date, but exerted no pressure on the young man. He allowed him to flourish and develop at his own pace – which happened to be extremely fast.
Ferguson made his debut for League of Ireland outfit Bohemians in a pre-season friendly against Chelsea at Dalymount Park – at the age of 14. He didn’t look out of place during his short cameo, weaving his way into the box before releasing a shot that he dragged just wide. At the time The Football Faithful urged readers to “watch this space“.
More attention came the teenager’s way when he made his league debut later that year as a debate raged over whether someone so young should be thrown into adult men’s football, a debate into which this publication waded.
None of it deterred Ferguson though as he went from strength to strength, before making the inevitable move over to England and signed for Brighton in 2021.
In just two short years Ferguson is said to be valued at around £100 million. Brighton know what they’ve got on their hands and made sure to tie him down to a new contract back in April that runs until 2028.
One could easily envisage him playing for Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea or any of the biggest teams in the country. Tottenham may regret not testing Brighton’s resolve with the money they received for Kane, but right now Ferguson is at the perfect club for his development. There is no rush for him to leave the place where he got his big break.
When Kane left Tottenham for Bayern Munich last month, the Premier League lost its top homegrown star. As it turns out, the next one was right under our noses.
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