Mat Ryan: Hyundai A-League 'helped me to where I am today'

Life at the summit of English football remains a surreal experience for Caltex Socceroos goalkeeper Mathew Ryan, who says his journey to the top would not have been possible without his early experience in the Hyundai A-League.

In nine years as a professional, Ryan has risen from Central Coast Mariners rookie to English Premier League (EPL) custodian with Brighton & Hove Albion, and international No.1.

But although the Australian is now one of the EPL’s top guardians, the goalkeeper – who hails from Plumpton in NSW – is not one to forget where he came from.

“[The Hyundai A-League] is always something that I continue to follow having been a product of it myself," he told Macquarie Sports Radio on Tuesday morning as he reflected on his career so far. 

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Mat Ryan Central Coast Mariners
Ryan was a popular figure at Central Coast Mariners, with whom he won the Grand Final in 2013

I came from the league, it gave me an insight into being a professional footballer and the environment that comes with that.

“I learned many valuable lessons in developing as a footballer and [it helped] me to where I am today.”

The 27-year-old – whose rise to international prominence began in the Hyundai A-League in 2010 with the Mariners – admits he still has to pinch himself when he returns Down Under to visit family and friends and talk turns to his Premier League career.

“Even when I’m just here talking with mates and they mention stories and I get that moment to just take a step back and realise what it exactly is I’m doing… it still remains surreal,” he said. 

Keeping good company

After signing for the newly promoted Brighton in 2017, Ryan has become regarded as one of the safest pairs of hands in the Premier League. 

In doing so, he has followed in the traditions of compatriots Mark Bosnich (Manchester United, Aston Villa, Chelsea) and Mark Schwarzer (Middlesbrough, Fulham, Chelsea and Leicester City) as Australian ‘keepers who have shone in English football’s top tier.

Ryan plied his trade in Belgium with Club Brugge and Genk, and had a spell with Spanish giants Valencia before emerging on the Premier League stage, and looks set to continue as first-choice between the posts for Brighton, who will play top-flight football for a third-straight season in 2019/20.

Ryan helped Brighton secure their Premier League status in 2018/19 with six clean sheets

However, the Caltex Socceroo says he would not rule out a potential return to the Hyundai A-League in the future.

“You never say never,” Ryan said.“I’m 27, us goalkeepers – like [Mark] Schwarzer – can go on to 40. Hopefully I have quite a long time left.

“I very much love this country, and any way that I can give back and help, and grow the game here, is definitely going to be looked at."