'Putting on pressure' - James Milner's brilliant response to Alan Shearer and Chrisian Vieri claims after Brighton teen's hat-trick heroics
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He spoke to the press after the Seagulls ruthlessly beat Newcastle 3-1 thanks to Evan Ferguson’s first career hat-trick.
The Irish teenager dominated the conversation.
“He’s still so young but what a player for us,” Milner said when asked to assess the 18-year-old’s performance. “The ceiling is very high.
"He set the tempo early on. He closed down and blocked a ball going forward. It’s a minor thing in the game but it sets the tempo for the game and shows his intent without the ball.
"Anyone who knows him so far in his relatively young career, he’s an unbelievable finisher and a goalscorer but when he’s doing the ugly side of the game as well.
"Both lads up top were the first line of defence. I thought they were outstanding."
Newcastle legend, and Premier League record goal-scorer, Alan Shearer was full of praise for Ferguson.
“Brilliant Brighton. Magnificent Ferguson,” he wrote on X (formerly Twitter).
This comes amid claims Ferguson possesses similar attributes to that of Shearer. De Zerbi, in his post-match press conference, instead likened the teenager to Chrisian Vieri – who is among the greatest Italian strikers of all time.
De Zerbi added: “Ferguson can become one of the best, the top scorer in Europe. He can become big, big, big."
Milner declined to share his opinion on the subject.
"No, as soon as I do that [compare him to other goal-scorers], it starts putting on a lot of pressure on him,” the former Liverpool man said.
"We’ve got to make sure his head doesn’t get too big and keep him on the ground.
"He’s a top talent. He started his career fantastically well. Hopefully he’s got a long career ahead of him doing the same thing. At the rate he's going at the moment, he’s going to be a special player.
"He will find his way. He’s at a fantastic place to be playing right now with great players around him. We have a great bunch of lads who are going to push him and support him and a manager who will want him to improve in all aspects of his game.”
Pressed on the comparisons with Shearer, Milner – who played with the legendary forward at Newcastle – quipped: “They are both very good goal-scorers.”
Milner said Ferguson’s goals were ‘signs of a goal-scorer’, adding: “That natural movement in the box, being on the move, expecting the keeper to drop it. He can score all types of goals.
"The more he scores like that [the long range effort], the more he will get closed down quicker. It was a great, calm finish.
"It’s down to us to keep his feet on the ground, keep driving him and pushing him. The manager is on him hard as well because he knows how good he can be and wants him to improve.
"He’s a great lad with great attitude. He will only get better and better.”