New Blood | 

Ireland boss Stephen Kenny backs striker Evan Ferguson and won’t focus on Kylian Mbappe threat

Mbappe’s World Cup brilliance highlighted just how devastating he can be on a good day – and he received Kenny’s vote in FIFA’s World Player of the Year awards.

Ireland and Brighton's Evan Ferguson. Photo by Sportsfile


Stephen Kenny says his players need to focus on themselves, rather than fixate on Kylian Mbappe ahead of France’s arrival in Dublin later this month – with the Ireland manager admitting that his new striking star Evan Ferguson has made a compelling case for involvement.

Kenny gave Ferguson a pair of caps off the bench in November’s friendlies with Norway and Malta, but admitted that the teenager’s “meteoric rise” in the intervening period has exceeded short-term expectations.

Mbappe’s World Cup brilliance highlighted just how devastating he can be on a good day – and he received Kenny’s vote in FIFA’s World Player of the Year awards.

However, the 51-year-old is excited by the attacking talent at his disposal, with Ferguson naturally coming to the fore.

“In my opinion, he (Mbappe) was the most important player four years ago when they won the World Cup,” said Kenny, who got to watch France up close in Qatar. “I thought he was devastating. He’s only one player, they have a lot of good players. He’s a terrific talent, there is no doubt about that, but we can’t get overly fixated on one player. We’ve got to focus on ourselves.

“With Evan, we’re still learning about Evan. He’s burst onto the scene. The profile of our forwards now is different to what we had, that makes us quite a potent team I think,” continued Kenny, who admitted Ferguson’s performances against Liverpool’s French centre-half Ibrahima Konate had provided food for thought.

“He’s played against him twice and he’s beaten them twice. What Evan does is make the game look simple,” reckons Kenny.

“He takes the ball in, he protects it very well, he lays it off, he has good movement in the box.

“He has good ability to score goals with good movement and good finishing and he scores headed goals, which, nowadays, forwards are not as prolific at scoring headed goals.

“He’s come through quicker than he could have anticipated.”

Kenny acknowledged the friendly with Latvia on March 22, five days before the French visit, could provide him with a chance to learn more about Ferguson. “It’s possible,” he said, “A lot can happen in that time. It’s unusual for one so young to lead the line at a Premier League club, particularly one in the top six or seven. You couldn’t have asked for more than he’s delivered so far.”

Kenny is concerned by Nathan Collins’ lack of gametime at Wolves and admitted that Matt Doherty’s inactivity at Atletico Madrid is another issue. He’s far from certain that Doherty will make his debut at the weekend despite the fact that first choice right full Nahuel Molina is suspended.

Meanwhile, Kenny has confirmed Ireland’s summer plans ahead of the trip to Greece on June 16. As reported by the Irish Independent last month, Ireland will prepare with a nine day training camp in Antalya, Turkey. An unofficial friendly is likely to be part of the itinerary. Kenny’s Championship players will also meet for an earlier gathering in England.

Today's Headlines

More Soccer

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

WatchMore Videos