Evan Almighty! Shades of Vieri, Shearer and Haaland in Brighton star

Evan Almighty! Shades of Vieri, Shearer and Haaland in Brighton’s hat-trick hero Ferguson as Roberto De Zerbi lauds his teenage striking sensation

  •  Evan Ferguson draws comparisons to Christian Vieri after Newcastle treble 
  • The Irish teenager scored all three goals in Brighton’s 3-1 win over the Magpies 
  •  Ferguson’s talent also compared to both Alan Shearer and Erling Haaland 

Followers of these clubs spent Saturday morning scrambling for flights and hotels. Come tea-time, only one of them looked like a European outfit, and it wasn’t the one set for the Champions League.

Newcastle fans were navigating rail strikes en route to Brighton when the continental fixtures landed. Their concern was suddenly air travel to Milan. Maybe Europe was on the mind of their players, too, for domestically they have taken their eye off the ball, quite literally in the case of goalkeeper Nick Pope, who fumbled for Evan Ferguson’s opener.

The 18-year-old went on to score his first Premier League hat-trick — taking his top-flight goals tally to 10 — and he will make his European debut when Brighton host AEK Athens in the Europa League later this month. He, however, will spend the majority of his career in the Champions League.

I asked Roberto De Zerbi who, if anyone, the Irish striker reminded him of — and the Brighton boss already had a countryman in mind.

‘Christian Vieri,’ he said. ‘Bobo Vieri was left-footed, Evan is right. But their characteristics are very close. I have an Italian colleague here in the room, please explain to everyone, they are very similar, because I’m very tired!

Evan Ferguson scored his first senior hat-trick in Brighton’s 3-1 win over Newcastle on Saturday

The Irish teenager has draw comparisons to former Inter and Italy striker Christian Vieri 

Roberto De Zerbi was full of praise for his striker following his treble in the win over Newcastle 

‘But Bobo Vieri was a great player. Molto forte (very strong). He scored more than 200 goals. He worked the same areas as Evan.’

At the same age, Vieri was making his way at Torino and it wasn’t until 23 that he had 10 goals in Serie A. The rest of his career was played at the very top of the European and international game.


BRIGHTON (4-2-3-1): Verbruggen 6.5; Veltman 7, Van Hecke 7, Dunk 7, Estupinan 7; Gross 7 (Adingra 89), Gilmour 8 (Dahoud 77); March 7.5 (Lallana 81), Pedro 7 (Lamptey 77), Mitoma 7.5; Ferguson 9 (Milner 81)

Subs: Steele, Webster, Igor Julio, Buonanotte

Goals: Ferguson 27′, 65′, 70′

Bookings: Lamptey, Milner, Dahoud

Coach: Roberto De Zerbi 8

NEWCASTLE (4-3-3): Pope 4; Trippier 5, Schar 4.5, Burn 4.5, Targett 5 (Lascelles 74); Tonali 5 (Longstaff 58, 6), Guimaraes 5, Joelinton 4.5 (Wilson 58, 6.5); Almiron 5 (Anderson 58, 6), Isak 5.5 (Barnes 74), Gordon 5.5

Subs: Dubravka, Murphy, Livramento, Hall

Goals: Wilson 90+2′ 

Bookings: Schar, Targett, Gordon

Coach: Eddie Howe 5


Ferguson will surely achieve the former — most likely away from Brighton — but his presence at World Cups and European Championships will be less frequent, if it comes at all. Republic of Ireland’s success rests squarely on his broad shoulders.

He would have a better chance of international glory with his country’s rugby team, and to see him walk through the tunnel area afterwards was to realise he would be a star for them, too. He does not look like a teenager and nor does he play like one.

Aside from Vieri, there has been likeness to Alan Shearer, Wayne Rooney and Erling Haaland. That tells you he has a bit of everything.

‘I can tell, just with his movement, his touch and his understanding of the game, that he is a special talent already,’ said Shearer.

Ferguson signed a five-year contract in April and sources at Brighton are relaxed about him staying at least beyond his 20th birthday. By then, maybe, Newcastle could be in a position to compete for what feels like a generational talent.

That would be a smart move, for their business of this summer is now being questioned. There was a period in the second half when they had all four recruits on the bench, either substitutes or substituted.

In isolation, Sandro Tonali, Harvey Barnes, Tino Livramento and Lewis Hall appear good buys. But with a limited budget because of Financial Fair Play — £95million net spend — it is the cost of what they did not bring in that is being felt on the pitch.

Last season, they lost for the third time in the Premier League in their 24th match. This defeat was their third in four games. They did not add pace to the centre of defence, nor a No 6 to protect a backline that can struggle against clever movement.

Not that Ferguson had to be particularly bright to score his second and third. On both occasions, Newcastle gave him space and so their chances of salvaging a result disappeared down a black hole.

In truth, they never looked like taking points from the moment Alexander Isak missed the second of two glorious chances inside three minutes.

Ferguson shows the striking prowess that’s seen him been compared to Shearer and Haaland 

The result sees Newcastle having picked up just three points from their first four games 

A midfield of Tonali, Bruno Guimaraes and Joelinton was so ineffective that one man, Brighton’s Billy Gilmour, had the measure of all of them.

Boss Eddie Howe said: ‘I think it (our midfield) is in its infancy, that has to be noted. I don’t think that’s necessarily a criticism of any one of those players, but it’s a new-look midfield and that takes time to build the relationships.’

So good is the job Howe has done, he has time on his side. He can lose games and will retain the support of all concerned, from dressing room to boardroom.

But there are ways to lose and this is why he should be concerned, for Saturday was unrecognisable from the team who have taken the club into the Champions League.

It was the worst performance of his tenure.

They return after the break at home to Brentford — and that will feel welcome after a bruising start — before taking flight for Milan and an iconic date at the San Siro, where Shearer scored twice in a 2-2 draw with Inter 20 years ago. Vieri, incidentally, was on target for the hosts during a memorable night in front of 10,000 Geordies.

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