Ryan reflects on his NAB Young Footballer of the Year journey

Success at a young age can often lead talented footballers astray but for Mat Ryan it was critical in his path to becoming a top-class goalkeeper.

The Caltex Socceroos and Brighton Hove and Albion shot-stopper has had an eventful career to date, including consecutive NAB Young Footballer of the Year awards back in 2010-11 and 2011-12.

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Mat Ryan
Mat Ryan playing for the Caltex Socceroos against Peru at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™

Speaking to Simon Hill during the most recent Caltex Socceroos camp, Ryan explained how his early years with the Central Coast Mariners helped mould him into the player he is today.

“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."

After three years in Gosford the time came for Ryan to move on but not before he had gotten his hands on some silverware.

The Mariners' 2013 triumph over Western Sydney Wanderers broke a long drought for the club and served as the perfect send-off for Ryan, who signed for Belgian side Club Brugge shortly after.

“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.

While traveling to Europe sounds like a dream for fans and players, there are inevitably teething problems which arise early on. 

Ryan opened up about some of the issues he faced which people often take for granted when living on home soil.

“I remember taking the flight over there then getting my bags unpacked then taking a deep breath and saying what do I do now.”

“Got the flight, got the bags unpacked then taking in a deep breath and being like ‘what do I do now’ then it hit me that I can’t exactly drive now to see my family and friends.

"I got a little bit emotional at that stage, being so far away from everyone.”

The sacrifice appears to be well and truly worth it for Ryan. The 26-year-old has established himself as a first-choice goalkeeper in one of the world's most competitive leagues, and brings that form into the Green and Gold arena. 

Ryan is yet to hit his peak, so watch this space and enjoy the ride.