Caltex Socceroos keeper Maty Ryan was one day into his off-season holiday when he heard the news that shocked many associated with his Premier League club Brighton and Hove Albion.
“A fan had come into the same barber shop and got his hair cut,” Ryan recalled to The Australian newspaper of the day he was getting a haircut following the final day of last season’s EPL campaign.
“Once he was finished, he got up out of his chair, looked at his phone and swore out loud. Everyone took notice.
“We were like, ‘What?’. He said, ‘They’ve sacked Chris’ [Hughton]. I said, ‘What?!’. That’s how I found out and it was a shock.”
Hughton was revered by the Seagulls faithful for guiding the club to the EPL, while also deciding the sign Ryan from Belgian outfit Genk.
But after the club won just three of their last 23 games in 2018/29 – and narrowly avoiding relegation – Hughton was gone.
In came relatively unknown – but highly-regarded – Graham Potter, the man whose attractive style with Swedish giant-killers Ostersunds caught the attention of English clubs.
He spent last season with Swansea City in the Championship before his was brought in to revolutionise the way the Seagulls play.
“Chris was a little more of the old, more physically dominating style of game,” Ryan said.
“You need that in certain aspects but there’s less playing out from the back, more physical competing, fighting, longer balls, second balls.
“Graham is more the modern style that you’re seeing these days, the Pep Guardiola style, where he wants you to play out from the back with short combinations and an aggressive defensive game by pressing really high up the pitch.”
Potter’s style shift is evident in Ryan’s stats so far in the 2019/20 campaign.
The 27-year-old Aussie made a total of 137 short passes across the whole of last season, with 85.2% played long.
But under Potter Ryan has already amassed 404 short passes this term, with just 32.16% long balls.
While it was a style new to many in the Brighton ranks, it wasn’t foreign to Ryan who played that way throughout his journey from the Hyundai A-League to Belgium [Club Bruges and Genk] and also in Spain with Valencia.
It was also the way Ange Postecoglou wanted the Australian national team to play between 2013 and 2017 and has been continued by incumbent coach Graham Arnold.
“I always considered myself a bit of a sweeper-keeper,” Ryan explained.
“When I came to England I felt I had to make a big adjustment in that aspect of my game, to become a more shot-stopping goalkeeper. As a player, it’s about how quickly you can adapt to a manager’s needs or wants, and Chris wanted that.
“With Chris, there was a lot less risk playing out from the back and a more direct game.
“With Graham, it’s been a lot more about expressing ourselves, playing out from the back, calm and composed on the ball, and playing our way between the lines. It was an aspect I felt I had in my arsenal in previous clubs.
“It’s exciting to see the progress that we’re making when you’re delivering a performance as we did the other night against (Crystal) Palace, our big rival, away from home, how good we were on the ball.
“There are times when I sit back and marvel at some of the football we are playing.”
Ryan, compatriot Aaron Mooy and the Seagulls are next in action on Saturday night at 11.30pm (AEDT) when they host AFC Bournemouth.