The rumours were confirmed overnight: Australian goalkeeper, Mathew Ryan, has signed with Premier League newbies Brighton and Hove Albion on a five-year deal. While the club did not disclose the amount they stated it is a “club-record transfer fee”, thought to be in the vicinity of £5.2m ($8.8m) for the 25-year-old.

Will Mat be Brighton’s first-choice keeper?

David Stockdale was Brighton’s keeper last season and was named the championship goalkeeper of the year. However, Stockdale rejected Brighton’s new contract offer and signed for Birmingham City.

So Mat Ryan has some big shoes to fill, particularly amongst Seagulls supporters.

Ryan is certainly well-travelled. He made 20 appearances in La Liga, the Copa Del Rey (Spanish Cup) and Europa League in his debut campaign at the Mestalla, playing frequently under Gary Neville during the ex-England and Manchester United defender's doomed four-month reign.

Ryan was a regular in the 2014 Brazil World Cup and was named best goalkeeper at the 2015 Asian Cup, won by Australia in Sydney on home soil.

Ryan featured in the recent World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia in Adelaide which saw the Socceroos win 3-2. Mat is also expected to be between the sticks as first choice keeper for the FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia.

Off-season and pre-season highlights

Before he joins his new teammates, he intends seeing some tennis at Wimbledon with his mother and older sister, Megan. The family have centre court tickets courtesy of Belgian former world No.1 Kim Clijsters, who became a friend when Ryan played for Club Brugge.

With Wimbledon being just a 90 minute trip from Brighton, Mat may well use this time to become acquainted with his new seaside home.

Brighton welcome Atletico Madrid to the Amex Community Stadium in a mouth-watering pre-season friendly in August which may well be the first time Brighton fans get to see Mat between the sticks.

Atletico have reached the Champions League final twice in the last four seasons and are packed with some of the biggest names in world football, such as French international and Manchester United target Antoine Greizmann, Fernando Torres and Diego Godin.

How will Mat settle into life in Brighton?

Brighton is a vibrant, cultural, diverse city with several entertainment options on tap. It has a population of 250,000 and has plentiful restaurants, cafes and bars.  It’s famous for a few things such as Brighton rock, the Royal Pavilion, the North Laines and one attraction Maty might not be so accustomed to - it’s unique pebble beach!

It is also home to some world-famous celebrities including Paul McCartney, Adele and Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim).

It’s located on the South coast of England, just 90 minutes from London. Brighton really comes to life in summer, with the city often experiencing long periods of sunshine (by UK standards anyway) and is often listed as a must-see destination for tourists visiting the UK.

The new i-360 tower (the world’s tallest moving observation tower) has recently taken centre stage on the seafront, not far from the iconic Brighton Pier.  The i-360 has a fully enclosed viewing pod, giving visitors 360-degree views across Brighton, the South Downs, the English Channel and on the clearest days all the way along the coast to Beachy Head and the Isle of Wight.

With London Gatwick just 30 minutes from Brighton, travelling to Europe is easy. So, it’s certainly a desirable city to live in meaning Mat should hopefully find it reasonably easy to settle – in fact, he’ll be based in a place often described as one of the UK’s hippest and happiest cities to live in.  

What about the club culture?

Brighton and Hove Albion are commonly referred to as a community club with a very loyal, passionate fanbase and a fascinating history. With no other big south coast club nearby, their rivals and nearest club is Crystal Palace.

Before their recent promotion to the Premier League, the closest the club came to major silverware was in the 1983 FA Cup final against Manchester United. The final resulted in a draw and Manchester United went on to win the replay 4-1.   

The community feel at the club was emphasised earlier this year with players joining thousands of fans on the train from the stadium into town where they celebrated their promotion to the Premier League into the early hours. Just last month, 150,000 fans filled Brighton’s streets as the team paraded on an open top bus through the city on a beautiful, sunny day. The bus was wrapped in Brighton’s blue and white with the tag line:  'We're on our way… Together in the Premier League’.

Their promotion is an incredible achievement, especially considering the club almost went into administration not that long ago and was only rescued by the sale of their ground in 1997 to pay off some of the club debts.

Are Brighton Premier League ready?

As I wrote here, Brighton has world class facilities, passionate, loyal fans and a world class stadium. It is a club with an astute award-winning manager in Chris Hughton, a business savvy CEO in Paul Barber and a very generous, intelligent chairman in Tony Bloom.

Brighton almost fell out of the football league completely twenty years ago meaning their fans really are living the dream as they enter their first ever season in the Premier League.

For Mat Ryan to be part of this adventure is truly remarkable and a wonderful opportunity to grow with the club. As a lifelong Brighton fan, I wish him the best of luck. Come on you Seagulls!  

Categories: People | Premier League

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