Footballer Evan Ferguson, a native of Co Meath, has gone viral after emphatically shutting down an English reporter's questions about his commitment to the Irish football team.
While Ferguson's Irish father was a noted football player, the 19-year-old Brighton & Hove Albion striker qualifies for England through his mother.
Ferguson, who was raised in Ireland, has made eight appearances for Ireland's national team, leaving him ineligible to make a switch.
However, in a new interview, talkSPORT journalist Alex Crook quizzed Ferguson on the "elephant in the room" and told the Irish footballer that there are "a lot of England fans who would love to see you put on the white shirt.
"Is that ever going to happen? Was that ever going to happen?" Cook asked.
"No, no, no," Ferguson replied. "I don't think that would - that's never going to happen, no. That's not a question."
Cook pressed: "And what's the reason that you're so committed to Ireland?"
"I'm Irish," Ferguson said.
"There's nothing else to say.
"I've been asked that question a few times, but, no. I'm Irish."
Cook then proceeded to ask Ferguson what it would mean to him to lead Ireland to a major tournament.
"I think that would probably be the best feeling that you could have in football, leading the line-out for your country," Ferguson said.
"I don't think there would be a prouder moment."
Haha love this from Evan Ferguson when asked why he’s so committed to representing Ireland and not England. “I’m Irish, there’s nothing else to say I’m Irish”🇮🇪☘️ pic.twitter.com/aEjypS8QB0— Jason💎🇮🇪 (@ftbljb7) November 10, 2023
Many Irish fans have criticized the line of questioning, stating that it is disrespectful to Ferguson and the Irish football team.
"The year is 2031, Evan Ferguson is still be asked if he wants to play for England," wrote Irish radio broadcaster Will O'Callaghan.
"Evan Ferguson forcing a smile as he gets asked a stupid question by an Englishman. Like generations of Irishmen before him," said sports journalist Adam Moynihan.
Cook, however, said his question was "tongue in cheek," and said Ferguson is a "top guy."
Me asking Evan Ferguson, whose mum was born in England, if he was ever tempted to play for England has caused a bit of storm. It was a tongue in cheek question as has been a story in the press. He answered it brilliantly with a smile as he did every other question. Top guy.— Alex Crook ⚽️🎙 (@alex_crook) November 10, 2023
Earlier in the interview, Cook asked Ferguson about his experience as an Irish player in England.
"When you go back home to Ireland now, particularly when you're playing for your country, you're seen as this, sort of, bright hope for their future.
"Obviously it's been a difficult time for the national team.
"Do you find that gives you a recognition when you go back home?"
Ferguson replied: "It does a bit.
"I think sort of anyone that comes over from Ireland to England and sort of does well, everyone sort of has their talk or has their say about that person.
"It is a bit weird going home."
Cook asked Ferguson if he feels "pressure" wearing the Ireland top, "bearing in mind the restuls haven't been brilliant over the last few years."
Ferguson said: "Not really. To a certain extent, there is. But not really any sort of added pressure."
You can watch Evan Ferguson's full interview with talkSPORT here:
Ferguson, who this year was shortlisted for both the PFA Young Player of the Year Award and Golden Boy Award, is regarded as the brightest prospect in Irish football and has scored five goals in 10 Premier League appearances this season, including a brilliant hat-trick against Newcastle United in September.
He's also scored three goals for Ireland in eight international appearances and is set to lead the line in their upcoming games against the Netherlands and New Zealand later in November.
The talkSPORT interview was published the same day that Ferguson signed a new six-year deal with Brighton & Hove Albion.
"Delighted to have committed my future to this great club, looking forward to building on what we've done so far together," Ferguson said on Instagram after the deal was announced on Friday morning.
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