Evan Ferguson: Just how good can Brighton and Republic of Ireland’s teenage striker be?2 September 2023
The sky seems to be the limit for Brighton striker Evan Ferguson after the teenager's hat-trick saw him join a very select Premier League club.
The 18-year-old scored with three of his four shots in Albion's 3-1 win over Newcastle to take him up to 10 Premier League goals - one of three Premier League hat-trick scorers on Saturday along with Manchester City's Erling Haaland and Tottenham captain Son Heung-min.
"It's not bad company to be in with them boys," the Republic of Ireland striker told BBC Sport.
"Obviously Haaland broke the record last season and Son has been doing it for a number of years, so it's good company to be in."
Only Michael Owen (28), Wayne Rooney (15) and Francis Jeffers (12) scored more Premier League goals before their 19th birthday than Ferguson. Owen went on to win the Ballon d'Or and Rooney broke the Manchester United and England goalscoring records.
Owen, Robbie Fowler and the late Chris Bart-Williams are the only other players to hit a Premier League hat-trick at his age.
Arguably what makes Ferguson's achievements even more remarkable is that unlike all those players, he did not come through the English football system and only joined Brighton in 2021, having made his Bohemians debut at the age of 14.
"He could not be at a better club at the moment than Brighton under Roberto de Zerbi," said former Blackburn striker Chris Sutton on BBC Radio 5 Live.
"At 18 years old he has great physicality. Just imagine Evan Ferguson in another three or four years with the development he will have."
Throw in assists and Ferguson, with his 10 goals and two assists, joins Spaniard Cesc Fabregas (with five goals and 10 assists) as the only foreign players to have reached double figures in the Premier League while aged 18 or under.
Last season Ferguson netted 10 goals in 25 Brighton games in all competitions - and this season, despite being on the bench on the opening day, he has four goals in four games.
He is at a club who are not afraid to give unheralded players a chance, with Moises Caicedo and Alexis Mac Allister getting big moves this summer after impressing at Brighton, and Kaoru Mitoma - almost unknown in England a year ago - now one of the league's best wingers.
Not that Ferguson is unheralded in his homeland. He is already one of the first names on the team-sheet and the Republic of Ireland's best striking hope since the great Robbie Keane.
"I remember the reaction to Rooney and that goal for Everton against Arsenal [when he was 16]. I can see that sort of thing with Evan," Karl Lamb, who coached Ferguson for eight years at St Kevin's Football Club, told BBC Sport earlier this year.
"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'."
But what could Ferguson go on to achieve?
"There's elements of all the great strikers we've seen in the Premier League in this man," said former Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp on Sky Sports.
"If he carries on I have no doubt he'll be a £100m player. He's that good. There's not many centre forwards like him. He was magnificent."
But the ex-England international added that Ferguson should not be thinking of leaving the club any time soon.
"Right now there's nowhere better for him," continued Redknapp. "He's working with an unbelievable coach and great players and learning the game inside out. There are not many coaches who play that style of football.
"He's going to go on and achieve great things. He can do it here for the foreseeable future and when the time's right he can go wherever he wants. He possesses a bit of [Alan] Shearer, a bit of [Harry] Kane, a bit of Rooney. He's got everything in his locker."
With the transfer deadline closing on Friday night - ending a summer where Brighton sold over £160m worth of players but seem no worse off for it - there is no danger of any immediate transfer anyway.
Albion coach De Zerbi told BBC Radio 5 Live: "We are happy that the transfer market is closed. It is good news for us because we want to keep him and we want to work with him to improve him."
Ferguson's first goal was a poacher's effort, pouncing from close range after Billy Gilmour's shot was parried by Nick Pope. His second was a curler from 25 yards and his third was deflected past Pope.
"It's a good day," Ferguson said. "The first goal is a striker's thing, you have to be ready. Luckily it fell to me and I could get it in.
"The second one, we talked about me having a bit more time than I thought in the first half. In the second half I thought I would get it and turn and tried to run at the defence and get a shot off. Luckily it went in and it all worked out.
"The third one, it was good to get it in off the mark. People are going to say it was a deflection but we're going to count it. It's an unbelievable feeling."
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