Evan Ferguson – Choose Wisely

Evan Ferguson – Choose Wisely Between The Rep. of Ireland & England

He’s the new young star of the Premier League but Evan Ferguson has a decision on his hands. England or the Republic of Ireland? Ferguson must Choose Wisely.

Here at BoyleSports we are urging bettors to not just bet, but to choose wisely. Evan Ferguson’s choice between representing the Republic of Ireland or England is an example of a choice with many elements to be considered.

Should he choose the Republic of Ireland, the country where he was born and grew up? Or could he be tempted by all that comes with being England’s next young superstar like Jack Grealish and Declan Rice?

In this article we explore the two choices available to Evan Ferguson, the factors that caused Rice and Grealish to declare for England and the complex nature of nationality in football.

Who is Evan Ferguson?

For those who haven’t heard of Evan Ferguson yet, you can be sure that this won’t be the last time you hear his name.

Ferguson (18) is arguably the most promising and biggest hope in an Irish Footballer in the last twenty years. Despite him being incredibly young, he has been making headlines for his performances in grassroots Irish Football for years now.

Ferguson is a product of the famous St Kevin’s Boys Academy who have produced a plethora of Irish footballing talent. From Liam Brady to Robbie Brady, Damien Duff and dozens more.

Evan joined League of Ireland side Bohemian FC in 2019 and it wasn’t long before he was making an impression. Ferguson made his senior debut on July 11th, 2019 in a 1–1 draw with Chelsea in a friendly at Dalymount Park. That appearance came at just 14 years old which made him the club’s youngest ever player.

Two months later he made his competitive debut, and his first senior goals came on January 28th, 2020 when he scored two goals in a 4–2 pre-season friendly win over Drogheda United.

Evan was seemingly always destined for a move to bigger and better things and in January 2021 he signed for Brighton’s Academy who beat Liverpool to his signature amongst a host of European elites.

The Bettystown, Co. Meath native’s performances for Brighton’s Academy quickly turned heads. The young talent was nominated for Premier League 2 Player of the Month the following August and has since continued regularly scoring goals for the club. Soon after Ferguson announced himself to the football world in the 22/23 season where he scored ten goals for Brighton in twenty-four appearances.

The 18-year-old has represented the Republic of Ireland at U15, U17, U21 and senior level already despite being just 18 years of age. However, speculation has intensified in recent months about his international allegiances given family links to England. Four goals in four league games for Brighton this season have had people speculating that he could make the switch to England.

Is Evan Ferguson England Eligible?

In theory, yes. Despite Ferguson being born in the Republic of Ireland, living there for the first sixteen years of his life, and his father Barry being not just a former Republic of Ireland U21 but also an employee of the FAI, Evan is/was technically eligible to play for England. That English eligibility comes from his mother who is English.

While it is very unlikely that the Co. Meath native would have any interest in representing England, that didn’t stop the rumours mounting with the likes of BBC, TalkSport and Sky Sports even to this day still speculating that Ferguson could make the switch.

Even after this video (in the tweet below) and numerous quotes emerged from Ferguson stating that he wants to continue to represent the Republic of Ireland. Yet the speculation continues.

The good news for Irish Fans is that the Brighton star is no longer England-eligible. That is unless FIFA’s eligibility rules change.

FIFA’s current eligibility rules state the following: “A player can switch allegiance to another country they are eligible for if the player “was fielded in no more than three matches at “A” international level in any kind of football for his current association, whether in an official competition or non-official competition.”

Ferguson now has 6 caps to his name for the Republic of Ireland which means that a Grealish or Rice repeat won’t be happening with this mercurial talent.

There was even talk that he could switch if he sat out three years of International Football with Ireland but that is also not true as the below tweet explains.

History of Players Switching Between Rep. of Ireland and England

In my opinion, it was never likely that Evan Ferguson would wish to represent England, given that he was born and raised in the Republic of Ireland and has represented us at every possible level. You could still understand the worries of Irish football fans given their experiences in the recent past with top talents making the switch to represent England.

The Republic of Ireland to England switch has become a huge topic of conversation in recent years. However, the switch the other way, from England to the Republic of Ireland has been going on for decades now. It was the bedrock of Irish football’s “Golden Era” under Jack Charlton and even Mick McCarthy. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that either.

The population of the Republic of Ireland is a little over five million people. However, the Irish diaspora extends to roughly 50-80 million people. Hence it’s only natural that the “Granny Rule” as it so often has been dubbed has formed an essential part of the Irish football recruitment strategy.

After all, some of the most patriotic Irish people around weren’t necessarily born in Ireland. For proof of that you can ask former Republic of Ireland international Kevin Kilbane about his love for the Emerald Isle. Despite being born in England, Kilbane turned down the opportunity to represent the Three Lions and opted instead to represent the Republic of Ireland.

What about Jack Grealish and Declan Rice?

The switch from the Republic of Ireland to England has historically been a less common occurrence than the other way around, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened before. In fact, it regularly happens at the underage level.

Before the infamous Jack Grealish and Declan Rice scenarios, the likes of Patrick Bamford and Michael Keane all represented Ireland at underage levels before going on to switch to England. Both players would eventually make their senior debut for their nation of birth.

So, why do Grealish and Rice get the brunt of the hate? Well, perhaps that is a compliment in itself. In my opinion, it’s because people see them as genuinely world-class footballers and massive losses to the Republic of Ireland squad.

Grealish played gaelic football as a child and qualified for Ireland through his maternal grandfather from Dublin, his paternal grandfather from Gort, County Galway, and his paternal grandmother from Sneem, County Kerry. The Man City star represented the Republic of Ireland at U17, U18 and U21 levels from 2011-2014. Grealish had even declined call-ups from England before he ultimately switched allegiances to his country of birth.

Declan Rice on the other hand, qualified for Ireland through his paternal grandparents from Douglas, County Cork, despite Rice being London-born. Rice represented the Republic of Ireland at U16, U17, U19, U21 and most controversially at senior level before also making the decision to represent England.

Both Grealish and Rice are now regular England senior internationals whether we like it as Irish people or not. At the time both decisions were made I was as annoyed as the next person. However, as the years have passed by I’ve had some sort of revisionism on my annoyance towards both players. Do I agree with the decision they made? No, but I can understand why they made those decisions.

The Grealish and Rice Decisions 

Grealish and Rice were both born in England and have spent their entire lives in England. Given that, I’m not surprised that they defected to England. With that said, there is no doubt in my mind that whether people like it or not, agree with it or not, both players have immense pride in their Irish heritage despite ultimately choosing to represent England in international football.

I understand and appreciate their reasons for changing, even if I don’t agree with their decision. They are English-born and bred, the same way Evan Ferguson is Irish-born and bred. People can condemn their decisions to play for one and switch, and maybe to some degree, their intentions might have been careerist. Personally, I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that belief.

There is a part of me that still wonders if the managerial team at the time handled the situation differently; would we have had Grealish and Rice representing the Republic of Ireland at the senior international level? It’s pure speculative talk but when you hear how they dealt with the Michael Obafemi “situation” it would make you think.

Nationality is Complex

Speaking as an Irishman who was lucky enough to be born here, I know the conversation about nationality is complex. People could have genuine ties to multiple countries, you can have mixed heritage, you can be born in another country etc. So I think it’s unfair to cast aspersions as to people’s “motives” about representing a particular country both now and in the future.

The point? Ireland is a multicultural nation which enriches our country. This should be celebrated. Just take a look at the heritage of some of the current Republic of Ireland squad as one of the many examples of that.

The time will come when some players with mixed heritage, perhaps born in Ireland, make their choice to represent another country over the Republic of Ireland and that must be respected too.

Choose Wisely Evan Ferguson

Jack Grealish and Declan Rice made the decisions that were right for them and perhaps their pockets too. I’d argue that the prospect of Rice and Grealish switching to England was always a realistic possibility. The chance of Evan Ferguson making the switch to England was a long shot. Each of those players have chosen wisely given their own personal circumstances.

This situation will come about again and perhaps sooner than you may think. The latest man who will have a choice to make is Republic of Ireland U21 International Tom Cannon who is the next Irish Footballer coveted by England.

If Cannon chooses England I would say the best of luck to him. If he sticks with the Republic of Ireland he will be another option for us and I will be excited to watch him play for the Boys in Green.

On the issue of trophies won by England and the Republic of Ireland many avid Irish fans would point out that the Irish team have won more trophies this century. That trophy was the 2011 Nations Cup while England don’t have any trophies to show for their efforts since 2000 just yet.

With that said, this England team has been involved in the latter stages of tournaments regularly. That includes a semi-final appearance in the 2018 FIFA World Cup and a runner-up finish in the 2020 Euros. These strong performances in major international tournaments will make the choice of playing for England a very attractive one to young footballers who are England-eligible.

From an Irish perspective there is also plenty to be excited about with an exciting bunch of young talent, along with Evan Ferguson, coming through the ranks.

The likes of Andrew Moran, Sinclair Armstrong and plenty more should give Irish fans and Evan Ferguson alike reason to have optimism for the future of Irish football. Stephen Kenny’s days may or may not be numbered but one way or another the future is bright for the Republic of Ireland.

While the decision to play for England may bring greater opportunities in the form of brand deals and maybe even more chances to play at major tournaments, we think it’s fair to say that Evan Ferguson has ‘Chosen Wisely’ with his decision to represent the Republic of Ireland at the international level.

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