Evan Ferguson to battle for Euro 2024 campaign after 'early promotion' to senior squad

Evan Ferguson to battle for Euro 2024 campaign after ‘early promotion’ to senior squad

STEPHEN KENNY ALLOWS Evan Ferguson’s first international call up for seniors an “early promotion”, but says a January loan could put him in contention to appear in next year’s Euro 2024 qualifiers.

Ferguson was the headline inclusion in a 26-man roster named today for next week’s friendlies with Norway and Malta, with fellow Irish U21 team-mate Will Smallbone also being called up for the first time.

Ferguson’s precocity has long been known. In 2019, he made a substitute appearance for Bohemians in a friendly against Chelsea, aged just 14, the same age when he bowed his League of Ireland to Bohs. He moved to Brighton at the age of 16 and made his Premier League for the club at the age of 17 last season. He then scored his first senior goal for the club in a win against Forest Green in the EFL Cup earlier this season.

“He’s very young, he’s no doubt not played many games, but he’s really been exceptional in coming through the ranks at international level,” said Stephen Kenny, adding that Ferguson has been included in part to pre-empt Will. Keane’s possible withdrawal due to injury. Keane goes for a scan after an injury playing for Wigan midweek.

“With Will in mind and Adam Idah and Troy Parrott injured, this is an opportunity for Evan,” Kenny continued.

“I know it’s an early promotion for Evan. I suppose that’s the way I should look at it: if Evan gets loaned in January, which is quite possible, between March and June, which is an important time for us, we can’t predict how he’ll do, but if he went and did well and got regular playing time and scored goals, he could easily come into the picture in March or June. That could change quickly. Everyone’s first loan is not always a success and we cannot count on that. He scores different kinds of goals, he scores great goals with the head, which is rare enough now, we don’t produce those kinds of players. He is a natural goalscorer and it will be a good experience for him in the squad.”

Kenny laughed when asked if he had coached Evan’s father Barry, a staunch LOI. “My God, you make me feel old there. I didn’t have that fun, maybe coached against his father, that’s for sure.”

A quartet of domestic players are on the standby list: Neil Farrugia, Rory Gaffney, Daniel Cleary of Shamrock Rovers and Derry City goalkeeper Brian Maher.

Meanwhile, Derby County duo of Jason Knight and Conor Hourihane have been left out of the roster as the League One squads are under no obligation to release players for this international period, while League One matches continue despite the World Cup.

“I have no idea why it’s not a fully approved window that we can demand from everyone [is released]said Kenny. “They have competitive matches, but from our point of view playing for your country is the pinnacle of your career and should be above all else. Ideally, we want everyone to be here, but we can’t do anything.”

Shane Duffy was left out for personal reasons, while Joe Hodge failed to make the cut despite his frequent involvement with Wolves on the first team.

“Joe is an amazing talent, I saw that with Tom Mohan’s U19 team when he was two years older than [the Euro Championships] Armenia. Again, he is someone who was loaned out to Derry and got injured and so came back.

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“Scott Sellars had him at Man City and took him to Wolves. He also has a high regard for Joe and he’s made some cameo appearances recently [in Premier League] so we will continue to monitor it and I think he will continue to be very important in the U21s campaign next year.

“As a player in that position and we have other players competing for that position, like Conor Coventry and Jack Taylor, so other players come into the picture.”

Kenny meanwhile hopes Erling Haaland will be selected for the Dublin friendly as a set-up for the Euro 2024 qualifier with France in March.

“He is a phenomenon. He is a very exciting player, he has an electric speed and an incredible ability to score goals, and physical strength. His goal percentage at Dortmund and Norway was very high, and he has followed that up with Manchester City, which is no surprise given the level of the players around him. You have other good players like Odegaard, a great player: Norway has some really good players. From our point of view it is good preparation for France in March, I think that is a very important race for us in March. We have to make sure we’re ready then, and this game is a good preparation for that.”

– First published 14.54, November 10

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