Ryan reveals how Caltex Socceroos prepared him for Brighton's football revolution
When Mat Ryan steps out at Vicarage Road to begin his third season in the Premier League tonight, he does so as a key component of a new era at Brighton and Hove Albion.
Having established themselves as an EPL club over the last two seasons under Chris Hughton, the Seagulls head into their season-opener against Watford with newly appointed manager Graham Potter at the helm.
Potter, 44, is one of the new breed of English coaches and has spent the pre-season looking to overhaul Brighton’s playing style.
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Brighton built a reputation under Hughton for their defensive solidity and organisation. Potter is trying to implement a more positive, pro-active game-plan on his side, with the emphasis on keeping possession and playing out from the back.
While it might be something different to many in the Brighton squad, it’s been a seamless transition for Ryan.
For the Caltex Socceroos gloveman, it’s a style he’s become accustomed to ever-since becoming an established member of Australia’s national team in 2014.
“It’s similar to what I’ve experienced with Arnie [Graham Arnold] and Ange [Postecoglou] with the Socceroos,” Ryan said.
“It’s a more modern style of play, playing out from the back a lot more, not being so defensive and sitting so deep. A lot more on the front foot.
“That’s the philosophy that Graham [Potter] has placed his coaching credentials on and I’m looking forward to seeing how we’re going to go this season.
“I’m looking forward to be able to contribute those aspects of my game, being comfortable with the ball at my feet and playing out from the back and hopefully being able to demonstrate that I can do a job for him being the team's goalkeeper.
“There’s a lot of meaning behind what he’s [Potter] telling us and I think everyone has bought into it completely and we’re making a lot of progress.”
Ryan’s lofty Brighton ambitions
For the first time since he began playing in Europe in 2013, Ryan has enjoyed the benefit of a full pre-season to prepare for the upcoming campaign.
With the Caltex Socceroos not involved in any major tournament this year, it’s allowed the Plumpton-born gloveman to have an extended break and fully recharge the batteries.
As a he heads into his third season amongst England’s elite, Ryan has high hopes for the Seagulls.
Potter has brought with him some fresh ideas and methods which has refreshed the atmosphere in the squad at the AMEX Stadium.
While the Premier League is regarded as one of the most demanding and competitive in the world, Ryan says the set-up at Brighton has them dreaming big this season.
“I’d love to be around the top 10,” Ryan declared.
“That means we’re not going to be coming up against teams like [Manchester] City and think the game is done and dusted, they are much better than us and will beat us.
“My best memories in the game until now in England has been beating the big sides.
“I would love us to finish in the European places as well.
“I believe with the right approach and the right preparation and all we can do as individuals, I believe a strong finish is possible.”
Caltex Socceroos leader
While his club commitments are the immediate focus for Ryan, the start of the Caltex Socceroos’ qualification campaign for the 2022 FIFA World Cup will soon come into sharp focus.
By the time the full-time whistle is blown in Brighton’s season-opener against Watford, it will be less than a month before Australia’s first qualifier on the road to Qatar.
Fitness permitting, Ryan is likely to be between the sticks when the Caltex Socceroos travel to Kuwait on September 10.
Ryan is only 27 but is now one of the most experienced players in Arnold’s squad.
In a squad with a number of youngsters and fresh faces, the former Central Coast Mariners shot-stopper is somewhat of a leader with 55 caps to his name and having played at two FIFA World Cups and two AFC Asian Cups.
“The leadership role is something that just happens naturally. It’s just being a good influence around the team, not trying to step up and go out of your way to police things,” Ryan said.
“If people want to listen to you and are asking questions, I can tell them what has worked for me and what I see maybe works for other guys if they are wanting to better themselves in any aspect.
“We’ve always been very fortunate enough in the national team since I’ve been involved it’s always been such a great group. There has never been any questions marks about professionalism or approach.
“I just go about myself as I have done and keep trying to do the things that have worked for me.”
Testing himself at the Copa America
While Ryan was able to put his feet up in June and July this year, he’ll be in the thick of the action at the corresponding time next year.
That’s due to the Caltex Socceroos involvement in the 47th edition of the South America's continental championships, the 2020 Copa America.
Along with fellow AFC nation Qatar, Australia have been invited to play at the showpiece tournament in South America.
“Any football you can get against the best players and best teams is something that is mouth-watering,” Ryan says.
“As a nation, we don’t get too many games at the highest level, only win the big tournaments roll around. It’s something we can take full advantage of as a squad.
“It’s only being exposed to those sorts of adversities, playing at the highest level against the best the players, with the best skills and so fast-paced at doing things, you can learn a lot about yourself and you can develop.
“The more experience in those moments you can realise what you can do to better yourself. I can’t wait for that tournament.”