Andrew’s a Blue!

Andrew’s a Blue!

Following prolonged speculation & negotiations, Rovers have finally been able to agree a deal with Brighton and Hove Albion, which has seen highly-rated Republic of Ireland attacking midfielder, Andrew Moran, swap Sussex for Lancashire for the season.

The 19-year-old who has been hotly tipped to be the next Brighton superstar off the conveyor belt of gems, will wear the number 24 shirt at Ewood Park for the 2023-24 campaign, and will be looking to follow in the footsteps of previous Albion successes at Ewood Park, in Reda Khadra and Jan Paul van Hecke.

Rovers, who reportedly beat competition from the continent, as well as Stoke City and Queens Park Rangers, have added to their attacking ranks with the addition of Moran, to further supplement the need for attackers at Ewood Park.

Despite being an attacking midfielder, by trade, the young Irishman – who has been rumoured to have been watched by Republic of Ireland’s senior boss, Stephen Kenny – does have the technical capabilities to operate on either wing, alongside his natural area behind a traditional number nine.

Having worked his way up through the ranks of his district side, Knocklyon United, within Dublin, Moran emerged from his age category and caught the eye of League of Ireland side, Bray Wanderers, and joined up with the side, aged 15. His rise within the Irish team’s setup saw him become The Seagulls youngest ever player at 15 years and 307 days after making his senior debut off the bench in the 80th minute, in a 3-3 draw with Cobh Ramblers. Despite more than holding his own during his sporadic cameo appearances, a first senior goal was on the cards in February 2020, as he netted Bray’s second in a 2-0 win over Wexford, during his 16-minute appearance off the bench.

Whilst he was not a starter for Bray Wanderers, Moran’s talent was clearly shining through, as was that of his fellow League of Ireland peers; teammate Leigh Kavanagh and Bohemians’ Evan Ferguson, as the trio were soon all snapped up by Brighton and Hove Albion, with Moran and Kavanagh arriving in a double deal in July 2020, before Ferguson followed in January 2021.

Moran’s cataclysmic impact on Brighton’s under-17s saw him take the under-18s Premier League by storm, as he netted 11 and provided another 12 inside his 23 games across a variety of attacking positions, for Brighton’s Academy, during the behind closed doors 2020-21 season, which ended in Albion & Moran being crowned Premier League Cup Champions, with the Irishman netting in the 2-0 final victory over Middlesbrough.

His emphatic season saw him secure a senior professional contract in July 2021, where he extended his stay on the South Coast, before being drip-fed into Albion’s first-team by Graham Potter. His first-team debut came just over a month after putting pen-to-paper as he came off the bench to help Albion see out a 2-0 win over Cardiff City in the EFL Cup Second Round. Despite his impressive showings at youth level, Brighton’s fantastic rise and recruitment saw Moran wait his turn for another first-team outing that wouldn’t come until exactly, one year after his first, as another Second Round EFL Cup appearance beckoned, this time in a 3-0 win away at Forest Green Rovers, under Roberto De Zerbi.

Just under two weeks prior to his second first-team outing in the EFL Cup, Moran was again rewarded with a new deal for his rapid development and fine return at youth level, in August 2022, signing a three-year deal. Yet, that undoubted increase in financial security didn’t deter the youngster from showing his class, as he once again lit up the 2022-23 Premier League 2 with 10 goals and six assists from the 19 games he played in his second season for the under-21s, which was a marked improvement on four goals and four assists from the 19 outings in 2021-22.

2022-23 ended brilliantly for Moran, as he made his Premier League debut after replacing Solly March for the last 11 minutes of an eventual 4-1 win against Everton, at Goodison Park. With Brighton’s transfer policy well-known, owner Tony Bloom, CEO Paul Barber, Technical Director, David Weir & Head Coach, Roberto De Zerbi clearly earmarked Moran as another graduate into the first-team, as he reaffirmed his commitment to Albion by signing a third contract – until 2027 – with the club in April 2023.

From an international perspective, Moran has clearly been an integral part of the Irish setup, having played in most of the Republic of Ireland’s age groups; u-16s, u-17s, u-19s and – currently – the u-21s. Whilst there has been some clamour for him to be involved in the senior set-up, Moran has shown that he has been capable of netting at youth level for the Boys in Green, netting in both the u-19s and u-21s.

Rovers’ Director of Football, Gregg Broughton, said: “We are delighted to welcome Andy to Blackburn Rovers. He is a player that we have worked hard on all summer to attract to the club.

“Andy in one of the many talented young Irish players to have been recruited by Brighton and he will bring a great attacking threat to our squad.

“He is capable of playing centrally and in wide areas, he is very comfortable in possession and he is aggressive without the ball. We would like to thank Brighton for their support with this loan deal, which we hope will be very successful for all parties.”

Rovers have no doubt picked up an exciting coup who will provide Rovers with a different option to change the game, whether that being from the start or from the bench. The youngster will also be exposed to first-team football at a higher level than the youth football he has plied for Albion so far. If Moran was to continue his youth football form into the Championship, Rovers fans will unquestionably be falling in love with another Brighton loanee. The move also extends the mutually beneficial partnership between Rovers and Brighton, which will undoubtedly stand Jon Dahl Tomasson and his side in good stead in the future.