Forward thinking Evan Ferguson learning from Haaland homework

When the nation’s great white hope is of a fair-haired, physically-imposing striker fast-tracked through the age-groups, comparisons with the standard bearer is inevitable.

Only time will tell whether Evan Ferguson to Ireland becomes as critical as Erling Haaland’s contribution for Norway but the youngster is willing to learn off the best.

Brighton and Hove Albion feel seeing is believing too, encouraging their recently-turned 18-year-old marksman to watch the master at work.

“They would show you different movements and how he does it,” Ferguson said about the video analysis tutorials based on the Manchester City striker.

“I think everyone at the minute is looking at Haaland and what he’s doing. The records he is making and the goals he is producing are unbelievable, so every striker is looking at him.

“Even the strikers in the Premier League are watching; asking how is he getting that many goals and what is he doing different?”

Four years younger than Haaland, Ferguson has time on his side to blaze his own trail.

Scorch marks have already left by the milestones of earning his League of Ireland debut for Bohemians at 14, his Brighton bow two years later and breaking into the senior international team.

Only for a Maltese block on Sunday, his second full cap, Robbie Keane’s 24-year-old record of youngest goalscorer would have been smashed.

Judging by his relaxed demeanor while attending an FAI Football For All program on Thursday, the teen isn’t consumed by creating history.

Anybody tracking his progress is aware of the boundaries he’s pushed but it’s the future where the ultimate excitement lies.

Just how soon when, not if, he’s ingrained as a central part of the Ireland set-up will be framed by his club status, a situation soon to be clarified with the January transfer window looming.

Graham Potter, before he quit for Chelsea, adopted a policy of keeping his Academy graduate close and protected but his successor, Roberto De Zerbi, has hinted at a broader strategy.

“He’s very young and I am happy for him,” said the Italian. “For the moment he’s not in the first XI, he needs to improve and to work.”

A string of English Championship clubs, including Bristol City, have been linked with a loan swoop and the relevant parties appear to be considering that as the best option.

“I think it would benefit everyone really; it’s just whether the timing is right,” Ferguson said of swapping U23 level for the real deal on a temporary switch.

“Maybe he (De Zerbi) is talking about me going on loan and playing regular games and minutes. If that’s what he’s talking about, I’d say it would be, because most of the senior lads are playing week in week out.

“I’ll have to chat with the club about it and see what they want to do.”

That return occurs this weekend, when all of Brighton’s players – bar those at the World Cup such as Belgium’s Leandro Trossard– will work away until games resume after Christmas.

Even if it’s a brief spell operating under the new boss, for now at least, he’s better a player for the experience.

“I’d say he has brought more of his Italian style over with him,” he said of the difference from Potter’s regime.

“It’s very intense week in, week out – with high standards. I think Graham was more relaxed. He (Roberto) wants everything to be done properly.” Stephen Kenny has indicated the expected loan move will catapult Ferguson into contention for his first competitive involvement in the Euro 2014 qualifiers, kicking off at home to France on March 27.

His physical presence, allied to impressive technique, provides the Ireland boss with an alternative outlet.

“Anyone would want to play in a major tournament or try to qualify for a major tournament, so If I got called up I would be delighted,” said the attacker, who led the Ireland line in the Euro qualifiers, up to their playoff penalty shoot-out defeat in Israel.

“I just have to see how your form is and try to keep pushing on. The manager will pick the squad he thinks is best to get us qualified.

“Playing the two internationals was what I grew up wanting to do. At the Aviva last week against Norway, when I heard the sound of the fella ringing the bell in the crowd, it’s like ‘you’re actually doing something’.” It might be just the start.

– Evan Ferguson was speaking at an FAI Football For All Futsal In The Yard event in Scoil Chiaráin, Glasnevin

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