Australian goalkeeper Mat Ryan has hailed his time at Premier League giant Arsenal, the team he supported as a child at home, as “surreal”. The 28-year-old Socceroos goalkeeper has ensured there will remain an Australian presence in England’s top flight with his loan transfer from Brighton and Hove Albion until the end of the season.
Ryan will start as a first-choice replacement Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno, with Alex Runarsson set to go on loan, but he looks set to be plunged straight into the Gunners squad for their FA Cup fourth round match against Southampton.
Yet in his first interview with the official Arsenal website, Ryan made it clear on Friday that he had not gone to one of the biggest clubs in the world just to play second violin. “I’ve never been a goalie where I liked to sit on the bench,” Ryan told www.arsenal.com.
“I’m sure all the goalkeepers are saying it, but I have come here under circumstances where Bernd has obviously done a great job for the club since coming in and he’s a very high quality goalkeeper. But I also believe that I has shown that in my career so far and I’m looking to come here and push him and him push me.
“We will try to get the best out of each other and improve ourselves as individuals. If we can do that, then who is going to get the green light on match day with the number of matches we have in all the competitions we are still alive in?
“It’s going to be who’s in the best shape and that will just help the team perform better and get better results, hopefully.”
Ryan seems moved that Arsenal was the team he always followed growing up in Plumpton, west Sydney. “To be honest, there is always an aura of surrealism to all of this,” he said.
“I’m really proud, it’s awesome and it’s hard to put words to the emotions and the feeling that it’s becoming a reality. All those mornings when I was young in Australia, waking up to watch the Champions League games and all that at four in the morning when I was in school and that sort of thing.
“The support at the time of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp to be here now fills me with a great sense of pride and accomplishment.”
Ryan, a favorite at Brighton where he made 123 appearances, has had a dignified start with manager Graham Potter hailing him as “a great servant to the club”. But Arsenal, who know firsthand how good Ryan is who have often been thwarted by the Australian in league games, see his experience and quality as a real godsend.
“He brings an extra quality to our team,” Gunners manager Mikel Arteta said of the man who received the No.33 shirt.
Ryan himself believes he still has a lot to offer his new team. “I dedicate every aspect of my life to playing football and trying to win football matches for everyone I represent, be it the club or the Australian national team,” he said.
“My goal (is) to come here and work hard, push each other and improve myself as a player and as a person. I have no doubt that I am in the right environment to do this.