Stephen Kenny wants Evan Ferguson to play without pressure as he attempts to enhance his blossoming reputation on the international stage.
The Brighton striker, 19, has shaken off a back injury to make himself available for the Republic of Ireland’s final Euro 2024 qualifier against the Netherlands in Amsterdam on Saturday evening.
His presence at the Johan Cruyff Arena, where he played as the Seagulls beat Ajax 2-0 in the Europa League last week, will excite the travelling support.
But Kenny is keen not to place too much weight on his rising star’s young shoulders.
He said: “It’s important not to expect too much. We’ve to be cognisant of his age.
“He’s just turned 19. He’s got a few goals already for Ireland.
“He was in this stadium last week, of course. He’s been very positive this week, very positive.
“He could easily have pulled out of the squad, or opted to pull out, having not been available for his club [against Sheffield United].
“He’s here, determined to do well and deserves a lot of credit for that. We’re looking forward to it.
“There’ll be no pressure on him. We want him to enjoy his football and show his quality.”
Ferguson missed September’s 2-1 home defeat by the Dutch — who would clinch their place at the finals along with Group B leaders France with a win — due to a knee injury and was a frustrated bystander as Cody Gakpo’s penalty and a goal from Wout Weghorst overhauled Adam Idah’s opener.
That has been the story for much of a disappointing qualifying campaign in which Ireland have beaten Gibraltar home and away but have otherwise failed to pick up a single point.
Asked how that had affected morale, midfielder Alan Browne said: “Not as much as you might think.
“Given the circumstances, the opposition we faced, it doesn’t hurt as much.
“When you try to go toe-to-toe with those teams and you’re not far off, you can take bit of credit, a bit of confidence from that. We try to stay as positive as we can.”