Ferguson predicts bright future for United starlet Shevlin

Matthew Shevlin celebrates after his record-breaking goal for Ballymena United in Saturday's win over Ballinamallard. Picture: Press Eye.
Matthew Shevlin celebrates after his record-breaking goal for Ballymena United in Saturday's win over Ballinamallard. Picture: Press Eye.

Ballymena United boss Glenn Ferguson believes teenage striker Matthew Shevlin has all the attributes to enjoy a big footballing future.

But the Showgrounds chief is determined to carefully monitor the 15-year-old Ballykeel-based striker’s progress after he burst onto the Irish League scene with a goal with his first touch in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Ballinamallard United.

“We’ve had him training with us and he has been good in training,” said Ferguson.

“He came in with us about three or four months ago and played a practice game.

“He was up top against Johnny Taylor and David Munster and after that they were going ‘who is that?’.

“Those two came in red-faced, not through embarrassment but through sheer hard work, because Matthew was non-stop.

“We played a practice game for 10 minutes last Thursday night and in that time he scored two and had an overhead kick that the keeper saved and someone else tapped in.

“He has absolutely no fear - he just wants to score goals. He’s a confident lad in his ability but he’s certainly not arrogant in terms of personality - he’s quite quiet and shy.

“There no point, if a centre forward gets injured, having a centre forward on the bench and not bringing him on, just because he’s young.

“He couldn’t wish for anything else. He’s a ‘sniffer’, a goalscorer - as soon as that ball was hit, he was in on top of the goalkeeper in case there was a mistake.

“For a 15-year-old to come off the bench and score with his first touch - he probably didn’t sleep on Saturday night!

“I think he has a bright future. He’s through the Northern Ireland under-19s now at 15 so he has everything going his way - he has the right build, the right size and the right attitude.

“He’s a big lad for 15 - he has size 12 feet!

“It’s about keeping his feet on the ground and keeping him level-headed which hopefully we’ll be able to do.

“He’s an out-and-out number nine, albeit in a number 25 shirt! He has scored for the Reserves in nearly every game he has played in this season and if you don’t give reserve players who a re doing well a chance, they’re going to feel disillusioned and won’t want to be here.

“But we’ll have to manage him carefully. He won’t be in the squad every week. He will be used periodically because he’s 15 years of age and we’ve got to remember that - he was back to school on Monday and back into homework and whatever else he has to do.

“After the game we went round the team and mentioned how well they had all done but we mentioned about Matthew coming on and it being a great day for him and the boys all gave him a round of applause.

“It’s a fantastic moment for him. I scored on my debut as well for Ards against Glenavon, but I was a bit older, I was 17.

“We’ve all been there, starting off at a young age but it’s important to have good people around you - not just in terms of in the team but as staff, we will hopefully be able to give him the benefit of our experiences.

“Wes is his uncle and will look after him, which we will all try to do,” added Ferguson.