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Evan Ferguson: Get to know Brighton's hat-trick hero

6 Sep 2023
Evan Ferguson, Brighton

We take a look at the 19-year-old forward and his journey to the Premier League

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Evan Ferguson became the fourth player in Premier League history to score a hat-trick aged 18 or younger in the competition.

By netting a treble in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Newcastle United, the 18-year-old Brighton & Hove Albion forward joined an exclusive list which includes Chris Bart-Williams, Robbie Fowler, and Michael Owen.

Ferguson’s hat-trick took his tally to 10 goals in only 24 top-flight appearances, meaning only Owen (28), Wayne Rooney (15) and Francis Jeffers (12) have scored more Premier League goals before their 19th birthday, which he celebrates next month.

Since joining the Seagulls in January 2021, his rise has been extraordinary, but who exactly is Ferguson and what do his team-mates, past and present, say about him?

From humble beginnings

Born in Bettystown in the province of Leinster, Ferguson joined the prestigious Dublin-based academy of St. Kevin’s Boys aged six. The academy is famed for producing Premier League stars such as Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick, and Damien Duff, as well as Republic of Ireland icon Liam Brady.

Karl Lambe, who is youth coach at St. Kevin’s and spent eight years working with Ferguson, revealed that even as a young boy, Ferguson's dream was to play in the Premier League.

"He first told me at eight that he wanted to play in the Premier League, and he said it with conviction," Lambe told SkySports.

"He is this thing Ireland have been crying out for, for maybe 10 or 15 years. In England, it is like 'this lad has come out of nowhere' whereas in Ireland it is, 'this lad is the great hope'”.

By the age of 14 Ferguson had joined League of Ireland Premier Division side Bohemians. In June 2019, only a matter of weeks later, he had received his first call up to the senior team for a pre-season friendly against Chelsea, where he set up an 89th-minute equaliser.

Ferguson aged 14
Evan Ferguson, aged 14, in pre-season action for Bohemians against Chelsea

Lambe recalls the day well, recounting: “He [Ferguson] came on and he was so direct, the dribbling, the dummies, brushing off experienced Premier League defenders.

"I'd assume Chelsea didn't know that he was just 14 when he was coming on and they treated him like any normal player."

A switch to the Seagulls

Having previously gone on trial with Celtic, Liverpool, Everton, and boyhood club  Manchester United, Brighton were impressed enough to present Ferguson with their clear progression plan and pathway to the first team after only four senior appearances for Bohemians.

Ferguson joined the Seagulls’ academy at 16, where he quickly established himself in their Under-21s team and was often called up to first-team training.

Over the following season and a half, the 6ft 2in forward made 34 Premier League 2 appearances, scoring 16 goals and registering two assists.

Ferguson made his Premier League debut aged 17 in February 2022, appearing as a substitute in Brighton's 3–0 home loss to Burnley.

The Seagulls continued to manage his minutes and progression carefully, and on New Year’s Eve of that same year Ferguson netted his first Premier League goal, scoring off the bench in a 4-2 loss against Arsenal.

In doing so, at 18 years and 73 days old he became both Brighton and the Republic of Ireland’s youngest ever Premier League goal scorer.

It was his first of six goals in the league in a year in which he went on to be named Brighton’s 2022/23 Young Player of the Season.

Special talent

Alan Shearer, the Premier League's record goalscorer and Hall of Fame inductee is quick to recognise goalscoring talent, and he believes that Ferguson has all the qualities to reach the very top.

"He is a special talent already," said Shearer. "I can tell already just with his movement, with his technique, his touch and his understanding of the game.

"He'll be on a high for the next few days, but he deserves it, he's a really special talent."

Work ethic

Seagulls skipper Lewis Dunk has seen Ferguson's progress first-hand, and he was delighted following the teenager's hat-trick heroics against Newcastle.

“He’s a humble boy, which is the best thing about him,” Dunk told the club's official website. “He doesn’t get carried away with anything. That’s not going to change, the way he works hard every day.  

“Evan's a young kid who’s got a lot of potential still to improve. What he’s doing now in the Premier League is incredible, but he’s got much, much more still in the locker.” 

“He’s a unique boy – the power he’s got, the strength. And his finishing ability is incredible. He’s learning from this manager, and this manager can take him to the top, top level.” 

De Zerbi's influence

Since succeeding Graham Potter in September 2022, Roberto De Zerbi has seen Ferguson blossom, and the Italian believes that the best is yet to come.

"He can become big, big, big," De Zerbi told SkySports. "His qualities are enough to become a great player. He can become one of the best, the top scorer in Europe. He was born in 2004, he's 18. I don't know how many players are young, that score like him."

While De Zerbi will continue to oversee Ferguson's development, former U21 Republic of Ireland team-mate James Furlong, has taken great pride in seeing his close friend's career take off.

Furlong, who joined Brighton’s academy two years before Ferguson, told Independent.ie newspaper, “You could see from the minute he arrived [at Brighton] that there was something about him.

“To make the set-up from the U23s to first team is really impressive. He’s taking it all his stride, but to score a hat-trick at his age was impressive.

“His background keeps him grounded. Evan is a really humble guy with a great personality which helps. He knows it’s going well, but is also aware that this is only the start and he has a whole career ahead of him.

“He’s the same person, hasn’t changed at all. Everybody would say the same about him. He’s a top player as well.”

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