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When was the last time you saw a 15-year-old playing in the Premier League?

Jason Cundy hammered Mikel Arteta for making Ethan Nwaneri the youngest ever Premier League last weekend, Danny Murphy couldn’t understand the logic of blooding the 15-year old against Brentford and plenty of other, less-strident, opinions have been bounced around for and against since Arsenal’s 3-0 win at the Gtech Community Stadium. Evan Ferguson seemed like a good man to ask. The Brighton & Hove Albion and Republic of Ireland U21 striker was only 14 when he featured for Bohemians against Chelsea in a friendly at Dalymount Park. A competitive debut arrived two months later away to Derry City. It seems ridiculous to be turning to a teenager who can’t legally vote or drink a pint until next month as the voice of experience but, hey, Glenavon gave 13-year old Christopher Atherton a run in a cup tie against Dollington only last week. “I’d imagine they are in training with the first team a bit,” Ferguson pointed out. “I don’t think they get thrown straight on the bench, they’d be used to the environment. I’d say it has gone through the club, the parents and that.“ At the end of the day it’s up to the kid. If he feels he’d be able to do it, I don’t see an issue with it. It’s up to them at the end of the day. If he’s good enough there’s no reason that he shouldn’t be able to [play].” Ferguson was fortunate to have a dad, Barry, who had enjoyed his own professional career on both sides of the Irish Sea: Someone he could look to, who understood the game, and there was no pressure one way or the other coming from father to son. He didn’t find the Chelsea game daunting per se and feels no-one actually expects fireworks of a player that young, but the very appearance of a kid that age inevitably brings with it major attention on the assumption that greatness is coming. Nwaneri has been the subject of endless column inches and airtime this week and Ferguson recalled how his involvement against Chelsea caused such a stir at his school Coláiste na hInse in Laytown. The game itself was clearly a Rubicon. “I’d say it’s a lot different coming into a men’s dressing room. That’s the first time with fans so you’re walking out on the pitch and you’re looking around and it’s sort of completely different to schoolboy football. It all depends on a result. If doesn’t matter if you play good, you play bad, it’s all about winning at the end of the day. It’s a different mentality.” The same could be said for tomorrow’s European U21 Championship playoff first-leg against Israel at Tallaght and the return next Tuesday in Tel Aviva, and the recall of Aaron Connolly should only increase the chance of Jim Crawford’s side pulling through. “We all know what he brings to the squad,” said Ferguson. “He’s quick and fast. Jim picked him for a reason and it’s good to see Aaron back in the squad. He will bring a good bit to this team.” Connolly has had to leave Brighton on loan to keep his club career going forward. Ferguson is still in situ on England’s south coast and claimed his first senior goal for the club in a league cup tie against Forest Green last month. A hat-trick for the U23s against Leicester City followed in Premier League 2, but Graham Potter has since left for Chelsea and been replaced by Roberto De Zerbi. That adds an air of uncertainty for every player under contract at the Amex Stadium. Potter was good for Ferguson. He spoke after that Forest Green display about a player whose level of maturity was such that he sometimes forgot how young he was. There was an understanding that the club still needed to be “careful” in his development. That said, a new manager means a new slate and Brighton’s excellent start to the Premier League campaign has been achieved despite a familiar inability to score as much as they should. Maybe De Zerbi will see Ferguson as a means of changing that. “Yeah, it’s a good opportunity for everyone. He’ll be coming in seeing everyone, not for the first time, but personally for the first time, so it could be a good opportunity.”