EXCLUSIVE: One-on-one with Australia’s number one
Mat Ryan talks about Brighton, Socceroos, World Cup, why he (sometimes) didn't wash his hands as a kid, and VAR08 May 2018 | Sally Freedman
It's not hard to see why Mat Ryan has won over the hearts of all Brighton fans with his humble, generous nature. I had the privilege - even more so because I'm a lifelong Brighton and Hove Albion fan - to be invited to the club's impressive training ground this week for an exclusive one-on-one chat with Brighton's and Australia's number one. So many Brighton supporters will be following the fortunes of Australia at the World Cup because of Maty Ryan.
I started by congratulating Maty for playing an integral part in helping Brighton secure Premier League status for another season.
SF: Firstly, congrats on a wonderful season so far! Today’s sunny weather must remind you of home?! How do you find the travel between here and Australia as you’ve had to go there a few times throughout the season for World Cup quallifiers? I’ve been going back and forth for 11 years and I still can’t seem to find a cure for jet lag!
MR: I try to get used to the time zone I am travelling to and get into the new sleeping pattern as quick as possible. I try and stay awake as long as possible and not take any naps. As soon as the club game is finished and the international break starts, from that moment on I try to switch into whatever time zone I am heading to. The trick is definitely to try and stay awake all day if you land in the morning.
SF: Talking of Australia, do you still follow the A-League? Did you watch the Grand Final at the weekend? Any thoughts on the controversy surrounding the goal and VAR?
Of course, I still follow the A-League. I have some very good friends playing in the A-League and it was a league I played in myself. I like to keep an eye on home and see how the league is doing and how my friends are doing.
I wasn’t able to watch the grand final as I was just finishing training. (By the time) I got home, it was the presentation. I didn’t actually see the match itself.
I did see the controversy with the VAR. It seems to be quite a common theme in Australia and across the world to be honest.
SF: Lucky for us, goal line technology worked in our favour against Manchester United, but I guess VAR is different?
MR: VAR is a whole different ball game to goal line technology. It (VAR) has the ability to be more influential than goal line technology. I’m not a fan of VAR to be honest.
SF: After attending the match on Friday night, I can see why Brighton recently topped a poll for matchday experience – it was an amazing evening. It was great to see you giving back to the fans post-game – you always seem to take the time to engage with the fans and there seems to be an inspiring togetherness at the club. Is this something that comes naturally to you? Does the club actively encourage players to connect with the fans?
MR: Yeah. I remember when I was in their shoes as a little kid myself, any sporting event – whether it was a rugby league match or a football match, after the match if you got a high five, you were telling your mates at school for a week and not washing your hand for a week, that’s how it made me feel.
I see myself now trying to emulate their behaviour. If I can give back and bring a smile to their faces I’m more than happy to. They give up their time and money to come and support us and create atmosphere in the stadium. I like to give back and say thank you.
The journey that this club has been on as well; the fans have been through so much – losing their home ground and then travelling ninety miles to Gillingham. To where it’s come from to where it is today. You really get a sense of togetherness and the experiences of the people that support the club have gone through – really creates an extra love for the fans around the club.
SF: How are you settling in to life in Brighton? I’m slightly biased having grown up here, but I think it’s one of the best places to live in the UK.
MR: It’s great. Football has always dictated how life has gone to be honest. I live a bit away from the touristy hustle and bustle of Brighton in Hove which is a little bit more residential and relaxing. I am really happy there. I’m feeling very settled and I am really enjoying my time here in England so far.
SF: There’s just two games to go in the Premier League against Premier League giants Man City and Liverpool. It must be a relief to go into these games knowing Brighton will be back in the PL next season?
MR: Yes definitely. I was always aware that we would be needing to learn quickly from our experiences in order to be successful in this league and to stay in this league hopefully for a very very long time. I think our progress has been there to see throughout the season, both playing the smaller teams, but also the bigger teams. We’ve had recent success against the big teams – Arsenal, Tottenham and most recently Manchester United.
It will be another challenge, coming up against City and Liverpool. The clubs have long successful histories and impressive squads. The depth that they have in their sides means we are going to be at the top of our game like we were the other night against Manchester United to give us the best possible chance to take something from the game.
As a footballer these are the types of the game you want to be playing. You want to be playing against the most prolific players and clubs in the world. I’m really excited for the challenge. And on top of that, you get to play at some historic stadiums and I’m sure it will be thoroughly enjoyable.
SF: It’s not long until the 2018 Russia World Cup. Have you seen anything of the young player he’s selected, Daniel Arzani, who’s been the sensation of the A-League this season?
MR: One of my good friends is Nick Fitzgerald, so I’ve followed City quite closely and also Anthony Cáceres in the past so I have a soft spot for (Melbourne City) for that reason.
Arzani has been covered in limelight this year by the media and his performances have been impressive, so it’s nice that he’s hopefully going to able to come in and show Bert and our coaching staff what he can bring to the national side. Fingers crossed, he can have a positive effect for us.
SF: Seven months after the World Cup, you’ve also got the Asian Cup defence in the UAE , are you looking forward to that?
MR: We’ve got a couple of things to look forward to first before the Asian Cup. But hopefully personally I am fit and in form, to give myself the best possible chance to get involved in that, and have another crack at being successful and achieving some silverware.
Sally would like to thank @officialbhafc for organising the interview and a special thanks to @MatyRyan for being extremely generous in giving up your time after an exhausting training session in the rare British sunshine!