Will excellent Evan be the next Ferguson to thrive at Man Utd? Not so fast, young man

John Nicholson
Republic of Ireland's Evan Ferguson celebrates scoring his first international goal.

Evan Ferguson has flown up the steps to the Premier League and seems destined to ascend to the very top. But Johnny Nic urges the Brighton striker to stay where he is for now. Here’s ‘What’s So Great About…’ the Seagulls striker…


Who’s this then?
Evan Joe Ferguson is just 18 years old, not 19 until October. He is a 6’2” Irish striker for Brighton and Hove Albion. Born in Bettystown in County Meath, he scored his first international goal for Ireland in a friendly against Latvia this week, and is widely tipped to become a top striker.

He’s the son of Barry Ferguson – not the former Rangers man – but the fella that played four times for Hartlepool United, amongst other clubs. A Manchester United fan, Evan began playing football with Dublin schoolboy club St Kevin’s Boys (which does sound like something from Father Ted). From there he played for the youth team of League of Ireland club Bohemians.

In his last underage game, Bohemians beat Shamrock Rovers to win the League of Ireland Under-17 Division, he then moved up to the senior squad even though he was only 14. However, he only played four games for them across the following two years.

Liverpool’s scouts had identified him as an excellent prospect, but Brighton offered him a contract, first playing with their Under-18’s and then in the Under-21 squad. He made his debut in the Premier League 2 in August 2021 and proceeded to impress mightily, netting 18 times in 39 games, chipping in with three assists too and winning Brighton’s goal of the month competition for November 2021 for his goal against Everton Under-23s.

In January 2022 he made his first team debut as a 76th-minute sub against West Brom in the FA Cup and made the assist for Jakub Moder’s equaliser. The following month he made his Premier League debut and in October last year, on his birthday, signed his first professional contract at the club. As many who had followed him since youth level thought would be the case, he hit the ground running at senior level and has now scored seven times and made four assists in just 20 games.

His good form as a youth led him to be picked for all of Ireland’s underage sides, first for the Under-15s in 2018, scoring five times in eight underage matches. This inevitably led to his first-team debut in November 2022 as sub in a friendly against Norway. And on Thursday he made his first start for Ireland, scoring in the 17th minute. His upward rise seems unstoppable.

Brighton striker Evan Ferguson prepares to defend a corner.

Why the love?
As I was saying in last week’s piece about Victor Osimhen, this is an era of fast, tall and physically-imposing strikers. Evan certainly falls into that category. While he’s not the absolute fastest – though that may yet come as he’s so young –  he’s got a real burst of pace when needed, that added to his imposing physique makes him super dangerous.

The reason he is regarded as such a great prospect is partly because he has moved through the development squads into senior teams with such ease. Every step up has never been a struggle for him. But he is also one of those players who just seems very self confident and assured in front of goal. He’s scored all but three of his goals playing as a centre-forward and goalscoring centre forwards are always the most in-demand players.

He’s got that ‘unstoppable’ feel about him. He scores all sorts of goals from thwackers to tappers and his running off the ball is exemplary and in part explains why he’s notched four assists for the first team.

His first goal against Grimsby in the cup where he took the ball out of the air, instantly controlled it and calmly slotted it into the corner, really announced his arrival on the stage to everyone outside of the Brighton fanbase.

A closer watch of his play reveals a player who is evolving into a complete striker, one who is as valuable for his approach play as for his goals.

I’ve never been a fan of the notion that some people are ‘natural’ goalscorers, because playing football isn’t in any way natural. That said, Evan does seem to be an instinctive goalscorer which may be slightly different. Playing the sort of progressive football that his manager Roberto De Zerbi favours, will be a great context for his talent to develop.


Three great moments
His first goal for his country…

Some lovely touches here…

Two superb goals…

Future days?
As a Manchester United fan, Evan is already being eyed by some United fans as a potential signing for the club. He’s valued at £10million right now, but that seems far too low. Tony Bloom has got him under contract until 2026 and if big clubs come in for him, the Seagulls chief sure to extract a hefty chunk of change for him.

However, with Brighton pushing for European football and being very much on the up as a club, it would make more sense for him to stay at the Amex for a couple more years. He’ll be guaranteed first-team football, will get more experience and more goals. The worst thing that could happen is for him to go to a big club and play infrequently, his talent undeveloped and stifled. While it is obviously tempting to go for the big money as soon as possible, in the long run it may do more harm than good.

There is always the risk of burnout for a promising young player but when you’ve got such a prospect at your club it must be tempting to play him all the time. He hasn’t had any injuries yet and looks like an extremely robust physical specimen for an 18-year-old, so much so that it is easy to imagine as he fills out in the next four or five years, he will be very physically imposing.

There is little better thing in football than seeing a young prospect developing as a player and Ferguson is currently one of the best and brightest in the UK football firmament.

Read more: Man Utd need Ferguson, and why referees are expendable like doctors and nurses…