Ryan Sessegnon a 'special' talent after lifting Fulham - Slavisa Jokanovic
Slavisa Jokanovic branded Ryan Sessegnon "special" after the teenage sensation helped Fulham to reach the Championship playoff final.
Four days short of his 18th birthday, Sessegnon scored one and made another for Denis Odoi as the Cottagers overcame a first-leg deficit to beat Derby 2-1 on aggregate and move one win away from a Premier League return.
Sessegnon has never been far from the limelight this season, scoring 16 goals during the season while adding eight assists and sweeping the board at the awards ceremony.
"This is not the first time I have spoken about him, most of the press conferences are about him," Jokanovic said. "He has shown a great level of self-belief and confidence, he is a special man.
`When the ball arrives at him in the box it normally finishes in the net. He wants to be at the top level, he wants to push himself and I am sure he will get there soon.
"He is 17 years old and he is special. For him to be at the level at his age is fantastic. He is focused and wants to prove himself."
Sessegnon will be 18 by the time he walks out at Wembley and admits it is a present he will remember forever.
"I think that tops it," he said on Sky Sports. "It has to be the best birthday present for me. Hopefully we'll get to the Premier League."
When asked how he deals with being in the spotlight and the pressure that is put on him, he added: "I just try to play my own game. I like to play my normal game and I don't let other people bother me. I just get my head down and work hard for the team."
While Sessegnon takes the headlines, it was a brilliant performance all-round by the Cottagers, who finally ended their play-off hoodoo, winning a tie for the first time in eight attempts.
After a plethora of first-half chances went by the wayside, Sessegnon broke the deadlock in the 47th minute when he lashed home from close range and then set up Odoi with an inswinging corner.
Defeat condemns Derby to a third playoff semifinal defeat in five years and an 11th successive campaign in the second tier, and coach Gary Rowett accepted his side found it difficult to contain Fulham in the second leg.
"The first leg we were defensively faultless, we were absolutely superb in defence. It is very a big ask to do it for 180 minutes instead of 90," he said. "I can't complain because Fulham created enough opportunities and you knew they would score at some point.
"I can't fault the effort or character but we didn't show enough quality. You have to accept that Fulham were better in the second leg and had enough to get through."
On Sessegnon, Rowett added: "He's a terrific talent. His shot conversion ratio is astonishing, he usually only needs one chance. He is a really unique talent. He is one of the best 17-year-olds we have seen at this level for a long, long time."