Ryan gets a kick from window of opportunity

Australia's Mat Ryan hopes that the arrival of a new coach who wants a major focus on playing out from the back will enhance the goalkeeper's kicking game and earn him a regular spot in the Valencia team.


Dirk Kuyt of Feyenoord has his header saved by Mat Ryan during a pre-season match. Ryan played one half as Feyenoord won 2-1 Source: Getty Images

Ryan, who moved to La Liga from Belgium's Club Brugge at the start of last season, admits that his first taste of Spanish football was a learning curve.

However he is adamant that his new experience on and off the field will make him a more complete footballer and a regular starter for Los Che.

Ryan started last season brilliantly, helping Valencia overcome Monaco to qualify of the UEFA Champions League, but he later got injured and subsequently lost his place to Brazilian Diego Alves.

The team struggled to leave an impression in La Liga, finishing in the lower half of the table.

Valencia have a new coach in Pako Ayestaran, who has already laid the foundations for a playing style that comprises a more attacking game starting from the very back.

Which is where a goalkeeper like Ryan should come in handy.

The Socceroos custodian has become as strong with his feet as he is with his hands and Ayestaran should look kindly on Sydney-born Ryan when it comes to settling on a first team.

"Our coach's style of play is one of pure football in terms of playing out from the back," Ryan said from the Netherlands where the squad wrapped up a pre-season camp.

"I've already noticed the difference in his will to want us to play out from the back more than we did in the previous year and it has pretty much been the basis of our training sessions so far.

"I feel a lot more settled and a sense of belonging in the team now with the improvement of my Spanish and being able to converse more and get along with my teammates.

"I think that's transferred into my feeling when I'm out on the pitch with them that I think they trust me more and they feel more secure with me back there than they did at times last year obviously with an unknown new player and furthermore a foreigner.

"I'm happy with my kicking game but I think there is always room for improvement in all areas and aspects of play.

"Not one situation is ever the same. As a player you're always faced with a different situation when you have a striker bearing down on you or you have the ball at your feet and you have to play out.

"You then have to go through the process of analysing, taking a decision, reacting and/or executing what you would like to do."

Valencia will be under the microscope again after a tumultuous season that saw two coaches sacked and the club's fan base become restless as the desired results on the field failed to materialise.

There were even sporadic calls for the club to reduce the number of "foreign mercenaries" who were not delivering, it was claimed.

But Ryan has been immune to the often savage criticism and his standing among the Valencia faithful was strengthened recently when he gave a full interview in Spanish, less than a year since joining the club.

"The club from what they tell me are very happy with me and I have five years on my contract so at this moment I'm focused and committed on making that spot at this historic club mine," he said.

Ryan is an ambitious young man and is determined to make the most of a career that has taken him from Sydney's western suburbs to one of the capitals of European football.
He is driven by a fierce determination to become as good and successful as he can be so he would be able to look back on a career laden with trophies.

La Liga, seen by many as the strongest and most glamorous league in the world, provided him with a litmus test.

"On the pitch I learned how hard it was to win a game at this level," he explained.

"All the teams have quality individuals with flair and can produce unthinkable things more often than what happens in, say, the league in Belgium I played in.

"I learnt that at a big club like Valencia the competition also lies within your own team to win your position, as the quality of players is so high that one bad day or performance could mean the loss of your spot, so the margin for error is really small."

"I'm always giving my all for whoever I'm representing whether it be my national team or my club team.

"We only have the luxury of being footballers for so long and my goal is trying to create as many life long memories as I can.

"And the best way to do that is by having success in terms of winning things. The memories of the Asian Cup, the A-League championship with the Mariners and the Belgian Cup with Brugge will live with me for the rest of my life.

"So I'll be doing absolutely everything possible to help whatever team I'm playing for to win the competition in which we are playing and hopefully create a few more of these life-long memories."

Valencia start their La Liga campaign with a home game against Malaga on August 23 (AEST).

Then comes Australia's final push for a place in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

The Socceroos take on Iraq in Perth on 1 September in the first of 10 qualifiers that feature games against Saudi Arabia, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Japan.

Many fans expect Japan to provide the sternest test for Ange Postecoglou's men but Ryan is treating all opponents the same.

"I definitely don't think that at all about the qualifiers," he said when asked if too much emphasis is being placed on the two big matches with the Japanese.

"We always prepare with the same respect for the opposition no matter who they are.

"I think common sense would tell you the minute you don't do that is the moment you get punished so we prepare with our game plan for every match just the same no matter who we are playing."

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6 min read
Published 26 July 2016 at 8:08am
By Philip Micallef
Source: SBS