Ireland manager Stephen Kenny and Evan Ferguson celebrate winning. Ryan Byrne/INPHO

'I don't think anyone's going against the manager' - Evan Ferguson

The Brighton striker backed the Ireland boss following criticism in recent days.

IRELAND STRIKER EVAN Ferguson has backed Stephen Kenny after a difficult few days for the manager.

Friday’s 2-1 loss against Greece led to renewed speculation about the Dubliner’s future in the role, however, the Brighton teenager says he retains the trust of the players.

Asked whether the subsequent 3-0 victory over Gibraltar on Monday night was a sign that the team are still behind the manager, Ferguson replied: “Yeah, definitely. I don’t think anyone’s going against the manager. I think it’s only some of the media and stuff. So I think we’re all behind him and we’ve all got trust in him.”

Prior to kick-off, Kenny had admitted Monday’s game was a must-win. Still, Ferguson played down any sense of there being additional pressure on players’ shoulders with the qualification campaign and conceivably the manager’s future on the line.

“I don’t think we felt any pressure. We all saw [the criticism] and we all just tried to ignore it because some of it was very harsh. I think that’s all you can do. Just play your own game. The people that are talking can’t play for you. So we have to go out and try to prove ourselves.”

In the match itself, Ferguson and Ireland had to be patient. The strikers were primarily feeding off scraps in the first half.

There was one half-chance where the 18-year-old could not direct a header goalwards in what was a largely quiet opening 45 minutes for the talented teenager.

“Obviously, we just had to try to break them down. The system they were playing was tough but we did it and I think if you keep doing that you are going to find gaps.”

Sections of the crowd booed at half-time as Ireland were held scoreless by the side ranked 201st in the world, and Ferguson added: “You expect that from the fans, especially from the result the other day but I think the message was to just stay patient and we’ll find the gaps — we did and we got the goals.”

Eventually, Ferguson was rewarded for his efforts with his second goal at international level — he previously netted against Latvia back in March — and his first in a competitive match.

“I don’t think it’s more special than the first one, I think the first one is always going to be the first one,” he said. “You can’t take that one away. 

“It was nice. If it was a game to get it, it was in a game like tonight. And I’m just glad it went in.”

The assist came via a pinpoint cross from Irish football’s latest centurion, James McClean, a player who at 34 is almost twice Ferguson’s age.

It was a special moment, as one of Ireland’s most experienced players ever linked up with someone who certainly has the potential to follow in his footsteps caps-wise.

“Growing up I used to watch him,” Ferguson recalled. “He played most games for Ireland. Seeing him and playing alongside him tonight, he’s the one that provides the assists. He’s a great guy who has done a lot for me since coming into the camp.”

Meanwhile, asked to sum up an incredible season in which he announced himself as one of the hottest young properties in Europe, the Meath native was typically refusing to get too carried away or engage in any needless hyperbole.

“It’s been a mad old season, it’s gone quick, it’s been good. I need to just switch off and get re-focused.

“It is possible you will see me around Bettystown for a week, maybe two and then I will be gone.

“Bit of time to just relax, that’s what I want to do, just chill out.”

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