The sky seems to be the limit for Brighton striker Ivan Ferguson after the teenager’s hat-trick saw him join a very select club in the Premier League.
The 18-year-old scored three of his four shots Albion beat Newcastle 3-1 to reach 10 Premier League goals – he is one of three top scorers in the Premier League on Saturday alongside Manchester City’s Erling Haaland and Tottenham captain Son Heung-min.
“It’s not bad to be with them, lads,” the Republic of Ireland forward 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 to be with him.”
Only Michael Owen (28), Wayne Rooney (15) and Francis Jeffers (12) have scored more Premier League goals before their 19th birthday than Ferguson. Owen went on to win the Ballon d’Or and Rooney broke the goalscoring records for Manchester United and England.
Owen, Robbie Fowler and the late Chris Part-Williams are the only other players to score hat-tricks in the Premier League at his age.
What arguably makes Ferguson’s achievement even more remarkable is that unlike all of these players, he didn’t come through the English football system and only joined Brighton in 2021, having made his first-team debut for Bohemians at the age of 14.
“He couldn’t be at a better club at the moment than Brighton under Roberto De Zerby,” former Blackburn striker Chris Sutton told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“At 18, he’s got great physicality. Just imagine Ivan Ferguson in another three or four years with the development he’s going to get.”
Assists Ferguson, who has 10 goals and two assists, joins Spain’s Cesc Fàbregas (five goals and 10 assists) as the only two foreign players to reach double figures in the Premier League when they were 18 or under.
Last season Ferguson scored 10 goals in 25 games for Brighton in all competitions – and this season, despite being on the bench on the opening day, he has scored four goals in four matches.
He’s at a club that isn’t afraid to give unpopular players a chance, with Moises Caicedo and Alexis McAllister getting big moves this summer after impressing at Brighton, and Kauru Mitoma – almost unknown in England a year ago – now one of the stars of the league. The best wings.
Not that Ferguson is unknown in his home country. He is already one of the first names in the squad and the Republic of Ireland’s best hope since the great Robbie Keane.
“I remember the reaction to Rooney and Everton’s goal against Arsenal (when he was 16). I could see that kind of thing with Ivan,” said Karl Lamb, who coached Ferguson for eight years at St. Kevin’s Football Club, He told BBC Sport earlier this year.
“It’s the kind of thing that Ireland has been crying out for for maybe 10 or 15 years. In England it’s like this boy came out of nowhere, whereas in Ireland it’s like this boy is the great hope.”
But what could Ferguson go on to achieve?
“There are elements of all the great strikers we’ve seen in the Premier League in this guy,” former Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp told Sky Sports.
“If he continues I have no doubt he will become a £100m player. He’s very good. There aren’t many strikers like him. He was fantastic.”
But the former England international added that Ferguson should not be considering leaving the club anytime soon.
“At the moment there is no better place for him,” Redknapp continued. He added, “He works with an incredible coach, great players and learns the game head on. Not many coaches play this style of football.”
“He’s going to go on and do great things. He can do it here for the foreseeable future and when the time is right he can go wherever he wants. He’s got a little bit of (Alan) Shearer, a little bit of (Harry) Kane.” A little bit of Ronnie. He has everything in his closet.
With transfer deadline closing on Friday night – ending a summer in which Brighton sold in excess of £160m players but looking no worse for him – there is no danger of any immediate transfer anyway.
Albion boss De Zerby told BBC Radio 5 Live: “We’re happy the transfer window has closed. It’s 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 shot by Hunter, swooping in from close range after Billy Gilmour’s shot was saved by Nick Pope. His second was a curling ball from 25 yards and his third was deflected off Pope.
“It’s a good day,” Ferguson said. “The first goal is a goal for the striker, you have to be ready. Luckily the ball fell into my hands and I managed to score it.
“Second thing, we talked about me having a little bit more time than I thought in the first half. In the second half I thought I was going to get the ball and turn around and tried to run towards the defense and hit the ball, and luckily the ball went in and it worked out.
“The third, it was nice to score it wide. People will say it was a deflection but we’ll count it out. It’s an incredible feeling.”