This Sunday could be Mat Ryan’s last Hyundai A-League game for Central Coast. And he's determined to sign off in style
This Sunday could be Mat Ryan-s last Hyundai A-League game for the Central Coast Mariners. And the young goalkeeper with the big future aims to sign off in style.
It-s been a long season for Ryan. As well as the pressure of a title-chasing domestic campaign, there-s been the added workload of the AFC Champions League, an aborted mid-season transfer to Scotland and the Mariners own financial dramas.
A schedule like that can make or break a club-s season. For a young man looking to step up to European intensity, a season like that certainly tightens the screws. But just days out from the biggest game of the season, the 21-year-old is as calm as you like.
“We-re just going through the paces,” Ryan says at Mariners training. “Everyone-s in a good mood. It helps to have the experience with the hype surrounding the game, we all enjoy it.
“The squad-s always been a great unit, whatever-s affected us, we-ve dealt with it as a team. Every club has their hiccup now and then but we move on and focus on what we do on the pitch.
“That camaraderie is utmost to our success. We do everything as a team together; team lunches, team dinners and everyone-s willing to die on the pitch for everyone else.”
Experience is definitely the key for the Mariners heading into the final. As well as the club-s collected know-how from years of high-pressure games, Ryan himself has been here before, when the Mariners lost the memorable decider to Brisbane Roar as couple of years ago.
The “chokers” tag has already been thrown around a couple of times this week but Ryan says all that experience - and hurt - has to count.
“For the likes of Hutch (captain John Hutchinson) and a couple of the other boys who-ve been there before it might [weigh on their minds] but we can-t really dwell on it. We can only focus on the present.
It-s all a learning experience and we-re doing everything we can to prepare and turn the result around.”
Even with the A-League season drawing to an end, the Mariners can-t afford to book their holidays just yet. They face Suwon Bluewings in Korea in the Champions League just two days later. And after that, the possibility of that move to Europe. Not too much going on then… But all the more reason the Mariners focus is purely on what-s in front of them: Western Sydney Wanderers.
A late drop in form ultimately cost them the title but Ryan says a team meeting before the round 25 defeat of Brisbane Roar but the Mariners back on the right path.
“We-ve been trying to get back to basics,” Ryan says. “We-ve had a few wins on the trot. Since the Brisbane game, we had a meeting before that weekend and since then we feel we-ve turned a corner and got a bit of momentum.
“I do have ambitions to move and I-m coming off contract so if this is going to be my last game… I haven-t focused on that at all, I-m just focused on Sunday-s match. It hasn-t sunk in that I might leave, I-m just concentrating on the job at hand.”