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Glenn Ferguson hails Matthew Shevlin as Crystal Palace head queue for rising star

By Graham Luney

Published 25/09/2015

Rising star: Ballymena United’s teenage sensation Matthew Shevlin is winning admirers across the water
Rising star: Ballymena United’s teenage sensation Matthew Shevlin is winning admirers across the water

Ballymena United boss Glenn Ferguson says big cross-channel clubs are queuing up to appreciate the talents of 16-year-old Matthew Shevlin but Crystal Palace have established an early lead in the race for his signature.

The Sky Blues striker has returned from a trial at the south London club where he impressed coaches and the feedback was described by 'Spike' as "very positive".

Palace are expected to bid for the player's services but United will hold onto the youngster until January. League One side Sheffield United hope to see the Ballymena Academy student up close in a trial next week but other clubs are chasing the hotshot including Celtic and Rangers.

"He did very well at Crystal Palace but he also has lots of options to consider with the interest from clubs including Rangers, Celtic, Everton, Charlton and Sheffield United who hope to take him on trial next week," said Ferguson.

"The feedback from Palace was very positive and that's not surprising as Matthew scored quite a few goals in the matches he played in. That's going to leave a big impression.

"I've always said I wouldn't stand in any player's way but he's doing his A-Levels at the moment so his education is important as well as his football career. He's also involved with the Northern Ireland youth set up, so with the trials included it's potentially a lot of travelling for the young lad.

"We really want him to have a career across the water but the consolation for us is he will not leave us until January. These things happen - Joe Gormley, Liam Boyce and Jordan Stewart have got moves and clubs are left to fill the void.

"I think clubs make a genuine effort to look after the boys now and make sure the kids go to school and continue their education as well. I'd be confident Matthew would be well looked after.

"Ballymena United will get a few pounds from the transfer but nothing is more important than the boy's welfare and we'll support him as much as we can.

"It's rewarding for the club to see a player generate this huge interest and young players know they will get noticed if they work hard."

The speed of Shevlin's development has been astonishing and Ferguson has no doubt the teenage talent can blossom in a tougher environment than the Irish League.

"Even though the boy is 16 we can tell he's got a big future in the game," added the Linfield legend.

"He's a goalscorer but his link-up play has improved a great deal.

"He's got fantastic energy and he's a real handful for defenders but he's now showing his strength, his hold up play is excellent and he's developing fast. It is no surprise he is attracting much cross channel interest.

"I made my debut when I was 17 whereas Matthew was 15 when he appeared on the scene last season so he's already ahead of me."

United travel to Warrenpoint Town tomorrow hungry to keep alive a six-game unbeaten run.

Belfast Telegraph

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