It’s nearly a year since Evan Ferguson took a significant step in his fledgling career by becoming the youngest Republic of Ireland international and the youngest Brighton player to register a Premier League goal in his side’s 4-2 loss to Arsenal.
That was New Year’s Eve and now as we near the end of 2023, Ferguson’s stock has risen further, with the 19-year-old scoring 12 Premier League goals during the calendar year so far, including a hat-trick against Newcastle in September, as well as netting three times for his country.
Ferguson has received more than a few plaudits, with Kylian Mbappe, in advance of the Euro 2024 qualifier, saying: “He’s a good striker, an important striker for that team”.
Gary Lineker, speaking on Match of the Day after the three goals Ferguson netted against Newcastle, saw similarites with another striker.
“I do see a hint of Haaland about him. His stature and his movement and stuff like that and his youth as well.”
Of course, Ferguson takes such praise in his stride. “I’m just chilled out,” he said, when speaking to Tony O’Donoghue to mark being named RTÉ Sport Young Sportsperson of the Year.
Reflecting on 2023, the Brighton frontman was even more laid back. “It’s been a bit of a mad year, a very quick year, but I’m delighted with it,” he summarised.
“Against Luton (opening game of the season), you just want to start off well, try and get your first goal as soon as possible. As a kid you want to try and score in the Premier League and once you do that, then it’s on to the next target. It [Newcastle game] was a crazy game. I scored one in the first half and you then go out and score two in the next half an hour.”
For Ferguson, football was always the thing. As for a Christmas gift, “a pair of boots and football would do”, he recalled. Playing on the streets with his friends in advance of joining St Kevin’s Boys and then Bohemians are the stepping stones he took to pursuing his dream as a full-time footballer, the tall lad from Bettystown was even an imposing presence at 14 when lining out for Bohs against Chelsea in a pre-season friendly.
After that came the switch to Brighton; other suitors were intrested but Ferguson was happy to sign for the south coast club, where other Irish players are looking to make their mark, namely Mark O’Mahony, Andrew Moran (out on loan) and Jamie Mullins.
“When I came over, there were three or four Irish here, and since then, three or four more have come into the place. I’ve played with some of them before, played with Jamie since I was a young kid. Having a few of the Irish boys around has helped me to settle in. You don’t really miss home, because they were your mates from home.
“Also, the feeling that the club gave me when I came over. There’s a wall that shows all the players that have come through the academy to play in the first team. They are not lying to you to try and get you in. There’s a pathway here, so that give you a chance to break through earlier.”
Ferguson went on to talk about the night he made his debut and then scoring his first international goal against Lativa, a few months after he made his debut for his country.
“For my debut you just want to get out there; you’re in the hotel all day. Then you’re standing there for the national anthem, the crowd going mad.
Growing up you were in the crowd and now you’re the one that they are cheering for. Against Latvia, I didn’t know if the ball had gone out, luckliy Mike (Michael Obafemi) kept it in and the ball went over the line. You have to put yourself in the right position, once you’re there you’ll have no excuse.”