“I’m living my dream”: Mat Ryan’s transformation from Hyundai A-League rookie to Premier League star
Mat Ryan has never had everything go to plan but it's those experiences that have led him exactly where he wants to be.
The Caltex Socceroos and Brighton and Hove Albion shot-stopper has had an eventful career to date, including winning consecutive NAB Young Footballer of the Year awards back in 2010-11 and 2011-12.
WATCH FOR FREE: How to watch the Hyundai A-League LIVE and FREE
HOW TO WATCH: See every game in Round 11 of the Hyundai A-League
Speaking to Fox Sports pundit Simon Hill, Ryan explained how his early years with the Central Coast Mariners have proved crucial down the track.
“It was a very important period of my career to help me get where I am today,” Ryan said.
“It was the first experience I had as a full-time professional player. To experience it at such a young age it definitely helped to progress my career.”
Ryan made his Hyundai A-League debut back in 2010 and quickly became first choice between the sticks for coach Graham Arnold.
It didn’t all go to plan however as the Mariners suffered heartbreak in the 2011 Grand Final against Brisbane Roar.
The then 19-year old was immense as the Mariners took a 2-0 lead during extra-time but it was to end in disaster as Brisbane scored twice and then won the resulting penalty shoot-out.
Far from bringing him down, Ryan used the experience to win another NAB Young Footballer of the Year title as well as keep a clean sheet as the Mariners beat Western Sydney Wanderers 2-0 in the 2013 title decider, his last game for the team before joining Belgian side Club Brugge.
“It was the fairy-tale ending, third season in the A-League, I’d been so close and obviously third time lucky with that grand final win,” he said.
“I came off contract at that time and I had it clear in my mind that I wanted to challenge myself and get to Europe. Thankfully enough not too long after that grand final I was a Club Brugge player.”
From that point it was a whole new ball game and a fresh set of challenges for the shot-stopper.
“I remember taking the flight over there then getting my bags unpacked then taking a deep breath and saying, 'what do I do now?',” Ryan revealed.
"It hit me that I can’t exactly drive now to see my family and friends.
“The tough times humble you in those moments and remind you that you are human and the alternative to that is throwing in the towel and giving it all up.”
Safe to say Ryan has overcome those challenges and, despite a tough spell at La Liga side Valencia, has excelled in Europe, rising to become not only the Caltex Socceroos number one but a top-class Premier League custodian with Brighton.
The 26-year old said playing in the world’s biggest league against the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City is exactly where he wants to be.
“Being exposed to those types of experiences and being thrust into those kinds of situations…I’m living the dream, I’m living my dream.”