From Glenn Murray’s consistency to Neal Maupay’s brashness, much of Brighton’s success in the Premier League has been spearheaded by a frontman with as much character as composure. Now in the hunt for European football, they’ve hung their hopes on an 18-year-old whose rapid rise from Irish football to Premier League starter speaks to a man with an old head on young shoulders.
Evan Ferguson has adapted to life in England with aplomb, averaging a goal every 82 minutes since his arrival from Bohemians in January 2021. A natural goalscorer with instincts way beyond his years, Ferguson has already cemented his place in Roberto De Zerbi’s plans despite only having played 10 league games this season.
After netting a consolation goal in a 3-2 loss against league leaders Arsenal on New Year’s Eve, the youngster has gone from strength to strength. In the following three games, Ferguson provided either a goal or an assist as Brighton bounced back to pick up wins against Everton and Liverpool, as well as helping to salvage a draw against Leicester with an 88th-minute equaliser.
“I think it’s a lot better [to score] when you can go and celebrate, and you’re not picking the ball up and getting straight back,” he said after grabbing a goal and an assist against Everton. Since that defeat to Arsenal, Brighton haven’t had to deal with too many defeats — they’ve beaten Bournemouth and West Ham, lost to Fulham, drawn to Leeds and Crystal Palace, and they will be taking on Grimsby Town in the FA Cup quarterfinals after beating Middlesbrough, Liverpool and Stoke City.
People who’ve followed Ferguson closely since his arrival in England won’t be surprised by how quickly he’s taken to senior football. With six goals and assists in just six games in the Premier League 2, the forward always seemed destined to make the cut for Brighton’s senior squad.
Ferguson’s form hasn’t gone unnoticed by Stephen Kenny, either, who bought him into the international setup in November 2022. There’s now a real hope that Ferguson could finally fill the attacking void in Ireland’s squad. A penalty box poacher with dancing feet, his imperious 6’2 frame doesn’t detract from his technical prowess.
Just as capable of instigating attacking moves as he is finishing them, Ferguson has the ability to drop deep and drive with the ball or spray passes out wide. There are shades of Harry Kane in the way he contributes to Brighton’s build-up play.
His height and build also allow him to play with his back to goal or peel off the back of defenders to attack crosses into the box. A traditional target man, a poacher, or a false-nine Ferguson can adapt quickly to his side’s needs. For De Zerbi, who likes to play free-flowing attacking football, Ferguson’s malleability is vital to getting the best out of his system.
Brighton’s best-ever finish came in 1981/82 when they finished 13th — they currently sit seventh in the table and are one game away from a trip to Wembley in the FA Cup. It is shaping up to be a historic campaign at the Amex, and as long as Ferguson keeps finding the back of the net, the Seagulls will keep flying high under Roberto De Zerbi.
By: Sam Tabuteau / @TabuteauS
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Rob Newell – CameraSport