Mat Ryan urged to stay in A-League

January 18, 2012
By Guy Hand

If Central Coast Mariners goalkeeping wunderkind Mat Ryan wants to eventually succeed Mark Schwarzer, he's been urged to do what the Socceroo did and delay quitting Australia for overseas.

Mariners coach Graham Arnold says Ryan - whom he rates as a Socceroos goalkeeper-in-waiting - should play more seasons in the A-League before departing to club football in Europe.

The 19-year-old was exceptional in the Mariners' fortunate 1-0 win over Melbourne Heart at AAMI Park on Wednesday.

Ryan single-handedly stopped the Heart from destroying the league leaders, then watched as his good work allowed a late Adam Kwasnik goal to snatch the Mariners all three points.

An A-League regular for just 15 months, Ryan has already been named the competition's young footballer of the year in his debut season.

He has now lifted his game to the point where he is being talked about as a possible long-term Socceroos keeper - and he admits he would love to one day take over as national team custodian from 39-year-old Schwarzer.

But Arnold cautioned Ryan against an early move overseas, saying he would benefit from more regular A-League football before trying to break into Europe - especially as young goalkeepers find it harder to gain regular first-team football.

Schwarzer debuted for National Soccer League club Marconi as a teenager.

However he didn't leave Australia until he was 22 - when he started a 17-year European odyssey in Germany which still shows no signs of stopping now at English Premier League club Fulham.

"The kid is 19. The last thing he needs is to go and sit somewhere behind an experienced goalkeeper for two or three years at a crucial time for his development," Arnold said.

"It is so much better for him to stay here until he's 22, 23, and he has four or five years here because the A-League is strong and getting stronger.

"He has Asian Champions League this year. Let's hope the Olyroos qualify for the Olympics - world stage. That's what's important for him."

Arnold said Ryan's perfectionist streak - and the good work of Mariners goalkeeping coach John Crawley - were driving the youngster to performances like his effort against the Heart.

Ryan's best save was a remarkable diving effort to deny Aziz Behich's downward header - a stop which echoed English goalkeeper Gordon Banks' save of the century from Pele at the 1970 World Cup.

"He's a perfectionist. He's never happy. He let in a goal against Perth and he didn't talk to anyone for two days," Arnold said.

"I had to sit him down and say 'this happens'. He's very hard on himself.

"He wants to be wearing Mark Schwarzer's jersey one day. It just shows that if you give kids the opportunity, there's some impressive kids."