Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic says teenage midfielder Ryan Sessegnon earned his trust during a pre-season friendly two years ago.
Sessegnon, 18, scored the equaliser at Craven Cottage on Monday night as Fulham overturned a first-leg deficit to beat Derby 2-1 on aggregate , securing their place in next week’s Championship play-off final against Aston Villa at Wembley.
Jokanovic revealed how he was first impressed by the youngster’s “special” ability when he was given a first-team run out in a pre-season friendly against Brighton.
He told the Daily Mail : “At first I’d brought him in to see what he could offer for the future. After one month he was doing fantastic. He scored a great goal against Brighton and that’s when I knew I could trust him.
“Whether you’re 16 and two months or 36, it’s simple: he did a better job than others. I wanted to play him against Newcastle but I waited a week. When I put his name on the board, some players thought I’d made a mistake.
“But they were the ones who made the mistake of thinking about themselves. They hadn’t noticed this quality. Now he has played more than 80 games. He is special.
“I’m not a father figure to him – he has great parents. I don’t know if they shout at him at home but here he is intelligent, he understands what I tell him, he’s a clever lad.”
Sessegnon has scored 15 goals and provided six assists in 46 Championship appearances for Fulham this season.
He won both the Championship Player, and Young Player of the Season awards , on top of claiming the prize for Apprentice of the Year and being named in the Team of the Season and Club Developed XI.