Will Smallbone: 'Ferguson's rise hasn't been a shock'

Will Smallbone: 'Ferguson's rise hasn't been a shock'

Ireland's Will Smallbone has admitted that Evan Ferguson's sudden rise in football has not come as a surprise to him.

The Brighton & Hove Albion forward has had an excellent season for his club, scoring eight goals in all domestic competitions this year. Additionally, he scored a goal on his Ireland debut, making him one of the hottest properties in English football.

This week, Ferguson, aged 18, is expected to start in Ireland's upcoming double Euro 2024 qualifier against Greece and Gibraltar.

Ferguson's talent is well-known, as he has received lavish praise from numerous figures in football. While his emergence may have been a shock to many, Smallbone does not share that sentiment.

"Yeah, I think a lot of people would say they've seen a lot of potential in Evan," said Smallbone during a Zoom call in Turkey. "He showed in those camps he was with us how good he is, and what he is showing now probably shocked people with how quickly he's risen to the top. But I wouldn't say it has been a surprise to me, given his quality.

"Yeah, for sure, at the minute he is a shining light for Irish football with how well he's doing. If we can get as many players as possible up to that level, it will only benefit us."

Smallbone, who was named man of the match in Ireland's 3-2 friendly win over Latvia, aims to increase his cap tally with a start against Greece next week.

An unused sub against France, Smallbone is eager to create a selection dilemma for Stephen Kenny ahead of the game.

"Obviously, I wouldn't know just yet, but I'd want to be involved in whatever game we play in," added the Southampton loanee. "I'll just be doing my best over the next week or so in training and try to give myself the best opportunity, like everyone else in the squad."

Republic of Ireland Squad - Greece & GibraltarGoalkeepers: Gavin Bazunu (Southampton), Caoimhin Kelleher (Liverpool), Mark Travers (AFC Bournemouth)

Defenders: Matt Doherty (Atlético Madrid), Mark Sykes (Bristol City), Callum O'Dowda (Cardiff City), James McClean (Wigan Athletic), Nathan Collins (Wolverhampton Wanderers), John Egan (Sheffield United), Dara O'Shea (West Bromwich Albion), Darragh Lenihan (Middlesbrough), Liam Scales (Celtic).

Midfielders: Josh Cullen (Burnley), Jayson Molumby (West Bromwich Albion), Jeff Hendrick (Reading), Alan Browne (Preston North End), Will Smallbone (Southampton), Jason Knight (Derby County), Jamie McGrath (Wigan Athletic), Jack Taylor (Peterborough United).

Forwards: Adam Idah (Norwich City), Michael Obafemi (Burnley), Evan Ferguson (Brighton and Hove Albion), Troy Parrott (Tottenham Hotspur), Mikey Johnston (Vitória de Guimarães, on loan from Celtic).UEFA EURO 2024 - Fixtures16/06 - Greece v Ireland, OPAP Arena, 7.45pm (21.45pm local time)19/06 - Ireland v Gibraltar, Aviva Stadium, 7.45pm