22 Goalkeeper Club Brugge Australia
2014 has been...
Football careers are often summed up by the opportunities missed by the players rather than those that they manage to take with both hands. Missed chances, rash challenges and lapses of concentration. They can be momentary drops in performance, inexplicable failures that have far reaching consequences for the player.
If Mathew Ryan had been judged by his very first appearance for the Central Coast Mariners, things may have turned out very differently for one of the brightest goalkeeping prospects in the game. The Mariners didn’t have a choice but to play Ryan due to injuries. As a promising youngster, he was always going to get a chance to impress but it arrived much sooner than expected and it was a disaster.
Mathew was at error for the opening goal of the game and was unable to draw on any confidence for the rest of the game. It’s to Graham Arnold’s immense credit that he didn’t do something about arranging an emergency deal for a more experienced goalkeeper and instead gave Ryan a second game. He took it.
With Jess Vanstrattan side-lined thanks to a ruptured ACL, the opening was there for an extended run in the side and Mat started to deliver in his second game. He quickly put the debut disaster behind him and produced a series of assured performances.
From there the youngster didn’t look back and he became a rock for the Mariners as they consistently reached the post-season play-offs. It was quite fitting for the then 20 year-old that his final game in the A-League saw him keep a clean sheet in the A-League Grand Final and he departed as a champion.
With interest in him coming from all four corners of Europe, Ryan made the smart decision to take his first few steps in the European game with Club Brugge. The potential for games in continental competitions while continuing to work in a dressing room that speaks English (thanks to the huge range of nationalities playing at the club) has allowed Mat to continue his progression.
He has continued to improve his all-round game and look much more assured under high crosses. Brugge finished second and then third last season in the highly confusing Jupiler Pro League and its many Play-Off systems but there was little more that their young Australian goalkeeper could have done to help the cause. Standard Liege’s Eiji Kawashima (20) was the only goalkeeper to keep more clean sheets during the 2013/14 season than Ryan (15) and he’s been Japan’s number one for the last four or five years.
Everything is going to plan in the life of Ryan.
The next 15 years of Mathew Ryan’s career should run as a parallel of the man he has described as his footballing hero, Mark Schwarzer. After Schwarzer announced his retirement from international football in November 2013, the number one jersey for the Socceroos was bestowed onto Mat and it fits him quite nicely.
Even though he conceded nine times in three group games at the 2014 World Cup, there is little doubt that Ryan is the man for the Australian national team. Ange Postecoglou is building a team for the future and Mat will be a big part of that. His rivals for the shirt, Borussia Dortmund’s Mitchell Langerak, Liverpool’s Brad Jones and Reading’s Adam Federici, have allowed Mathew to get a jump on them and he won’t be letting go of the shirt any time soon.
Ryan has proved in the last year that he has all the tools to play for a side in one of Europe’s biggest leagues and another move may be on the cards in 2015. At 22, he has four strong seasons of competitive football already under his belt and there aren’t too many areas in which he needs to improve.
His sublime distribution remains a huge plus and something that still sets him apart from his rivals. He is capable of launching passes onto the left boot of a winger in full flight; it’s a skill that makes his team frighteningly dangerous on the break.
In recent months as attention was bestowed upon him thanks to his rise towards the Australian national team, Ryan admitted that he’d eventually like to end up in the English game. However he’ll need to be careful as his size could make the transition tough; as David De Gea’s first few months at Manchester United proved. Belgian football has helped to toughen him up and there is still time for him to improve his decision making that sees him come for the wrong cross on occasion but at just six foot tall, opposition sides will try to bully him.
Any team on the continent would make a very smart decision to try and prise him away from Club Brugge; even if they’ll be forced to pay a pretty penny for the pleasure.
"Matthew (Maty) Ryan is great shop-stopper, voted ‘Best Keeper’ In Belgium; Down to him, Club Brugge has the JPL's best defensive record." - John Chapman
"Since August 2013, Mathew Ryan has kept 20 clean sheets in all rounds of the Belgian Pro League. Only Eiji Kawashima (21) has managed more." - OptaJoe
B This year has been much stronger than we expected
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