West Brom boss Slaven Bilic likened Nathan Ferguson to England star Declan Rice after the youngster inspired the Baggies to a 2-0 win at QPR.
Ferguson, 18, was outstanding at left-back and scored his first goal for the club to put them ahead seven minutes into the second half.
He strode forward from his own half and sent a right-footed strike past Joe Lumley at the goalkeeper’s near post.
Matheus Pereira also scored his first Albion goal – the on-loan Sporting Lisbon man netted with a late free-kick to seal the victory.
Former West Ham manager Bilic, who worked with Rice at the east London club, was full of praise for Ferguson and believes he is destined for a bright future.
“Nathan has a mentality that reminds me of Declan Rice,” Bilic said.
“He’s only 18 on paper but his mind is 25 or 27 – he’s not a kid. He’s only a kid in a positive way in that he’s not afraid to take the ball forward and have a shot.
“It’s our job to keep him humble but there’s no doubt that he has an extremely bright future and a great career in front of him.”
Albion are unbeaten in seven matches and were much the better side at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, where Charlie Austin played against his former club along with fellow ex-QPR men Darnell Furlong and Matt Phillips.
Austin is still waiting for his first league goal since his summer move from Southampton but Bilic was more than happy with the striker’s contribution and the team’s display.
“This is the best performance that we played so far,” Bilic added.
“Straight from the start we were on the front foot. They didn’t have a sniff.
“We were a bit nervous – we were getting in great situations but were rushing it.
“In those situations you maybe need one moment of individual brilliance and we got that with Nathan. We were pure class afterwards.
“When we got the second goal it wasn’t game over – you can always come back – but we managed the game really well.
“I’m really pleased. Of course we can get better and it’s still early days but I have to say the lads have been excellent.”
QPR manager Mark Warburton felt his players showed Albion too much respect.
Rangers had won their previous four league matches but were second best throughout and rarely looked like finding an equaliser after Ferguson broke the deadlock in emphatic fashion.
Warburton said: “I think we showed too much respect. They’re a very good team, a talented team with big expectations and we knew what we faced, but we didn’t get out of second gear in the first half.
“We started the second half well and then conceded a really soft goal. To concede a goal like that, the whole dynamic of the game changes.
“He’s run 40 yards and shot from 30-odd yards. We shouldn’t concede that goal.”
The likes of Ebere Eze and Ilias Chair have been exciting for Rangers this season but were well contained by Albion, who looked comfortable.
But Warburton took exception to a suggestion that the game had been an education for his young players.
He said: “Without being rude, it’s derogatory. What do you mean it’s an education?
“Maybe their budget is multiples of ours and the expectations are there, but we’ve shown in recent weeks that we can go home and away and play good football and hurt teams.
“Up to last week we had the second-most chances created. So I think we’ve earned the right to be shown some respect and if teams don’t show us respect we’ll hurt them.”
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