IBWM Staff2 Comments


IBWM Staff2 Comments
Aus Matthew Ryan.jpg

Mathew Ryan     21     Goalkeeper     Club Brugge     Australia

2013 has been…

Regardless of what may have been said at the original launch, or every time the year-on-year results are announced with glee; the A-League was created to improve the Australian national team. It provides their young players with a competitive league and puts them firmly in the shop window of the biggest club sides around the world. It’s not going to considered one of the best leagues in the world for quite a long time; and that’s fine. It’s working perfectly well as a production line so far. In recent years, the A-League has seen Tommy Rogic head for Celtic, Marco Rojas make the switch to Stuttgart and Mathew Ryan move to Club Brugge.

Ryan, having made his A-League debut in 2010, was never going to be a player that stayed in Australia unless he made a personal decision to do so. After profiting from a lengthy injury suffered by Jess Vanstrattan, Mat Ryan established himself as first-choice for the Central Coast Mariners and then proved himself to be the outstanding glovesman in the league.

A product of Westfield Sports High – a famous Australian school for producing football players – Mat benefitted from the Mariners really having no other option than to give him a chance when Vanstrattan was struck down with an ACL rupture. Had there been an alternative available, Ryan may not have returned after struggling against Sydney FC on his A-League. The youngster was at error for the opening goal in the game and any coach could have been forgiven for replacing him with a more experienced head. As it was, head coach Graham Arnold stuck with Ryan and he delivered.

Ryan kept 10 clean sheets in his first A-League season and was named the Young Player of the Year. After that; the number one jersey belonged to him and he was a mainstay for the Mariners from 2011 until 2013 as they battled into the A-League Finals Series on three consecutive occasions. He continued to collect awards as he repelled the best sides in the A-League and earned himself a call-up to the Australian national team.

It’s rather fitting that earlier this year his time in Australia ended with victory over West Sydney Wanderers in the 2013 A-League Grand Final. He left as a deserved champion. Mat didn’t have a busy night during the actual final but made a confident save when he was called on to keep Central Coast in control of the game.

What next?

The Grand Final actually allowed him to prove that he possessed one of the great hallmarks of a goalkeeper. As well as being a fine shot stopper with lightning quick reactions, Mathew is able to hold his concentration in the quietest of matches. He can be relied on to remain switched on in a game where his team spend much of their time camped in the other half. There are the odd mistakes; namely parrying the ball right into the path of advancing strikers or attempting to retrieve crosses through a mountain of men; but they happen infrequently enough that they aren’t anything to worry about just yet.

He’s also very good with his feet, as is the way of the modern ‘keeper. Ryan’s distribution was a real bonus for the Mariners in the A-League as he sprayed the ball quickly out to the wings to set an attack in motion. It’s one of those additional attributes that will have been a factor in the interest he received during his last year Down Under.

Premier League sides Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion both watched Ryan as well as sleeping giants Sheffield United and recent French champions Lille. However, it’s to the 21 year-old’s credit that he spurned the advances of the French side and the Blades to join Club Brugge during the summer.

Standing just over six feet tall, Mat isn’t the biggest of goalkeepers and no matter how good his physical shape; a jump from the A-League to England may have been too drastic. He’d have struggled with cold, wet away trips around England with opposition sides loading the penalty area. At Brugge; he’s settled in quickly and is already helping FCB push for a play-off place.

It helps that the dressing room speak English to each other, such is the mix of nationalities and Brugge are attempting to build themselves a new team with the next few years in mind. At just 21, Ryan can be a big part of that. He’s made the jump to a better standard of competition without really breaking a sweat and now finds himself in pole position to be Australia’s number one for years to come.

Mark Schwarzer shocked many by announcing his retirement from international football just two weeks ago as Ange Postecoglou announced his first Australian squad. By doing so; the number one jersey for the Socceroos at the 2014 FIFA World Cup suddenly becomes Ryan’s to lose. His main rivals for that spot, Borussia Dortmund’s Mitchell Langerak and Reading’s Adam Federici, are playing at more prestigious clubs but neither are regulars.

If Mathew can continue to play as consistently as he has started the season, Club Brugge will have a say in where the Belgian Jupiler League trophy ends up and he’ll be the man between the sticks when Australia play their first game in Brazil this summer.

"It's hard to believe that Mat Ryan is still only 21; it feels like he has been playing first team football for a lot longer than three years. Ryan's consistency was a big factor in the Central Coast Mariners' run to the A-League title in 2013 before he secured a move to Europe and Club Brugge in May. Despite not being the biggest of goalkeepers, Ryan is very agile and is an excellent shot stopper. With Mark Schwarzer announcing his international retirement recently, Ryan is currently building a great case to be Australia's first choice at next year's World Cup."Neil Sherwin, Back Page Football

“After rave reviews from A-League, Mat Ryan has taken to life in Brugge very well and has certainly been Club's best bit of business over the summer. He's already saved them from having a worst start to the campaign, with some sensational stops. Could well be a stepping stone to something greater down the line.”Chris Mayer, The Belgian Waffle

"{C}Mathew Ryan kept more clean sheets in the 2012/13 A-League than any other goalkeeper (10).{C}{C}{C}" - Opta

C+     The best Australian goalkeeper of his generation is developing very nicely