Dream debut season for Ryan

A first Belgian Pro League title and qualification in the European Champions League, along with a World Cup spot for Brazil, is in reach for Socceroo goalkeeper Mathew Ryan.

The 21-year old is coming to the business end of his first season with Club Brugge, with his team still in contention for the Premiership and a place in next season’s Champions League. Club Brugge are currently in second place on the Pro League table, six points behind league leader Standard Liege, with one regular season match to play.

After that the competition breaks into two mini-competitions of six teams, separated into teams placed one to sixth and seventh to 12th, and each club then plays each other twice home and away. In this mini-comp each club’s points total from the previous 30 games are halved.

“It means the competition’s much closer, it’s more exciting,” Ryan said.

Club Brugge faces rivals Cercle Brugge in a local derby this weekend, after drawing 1-1 with Zulte Waregem, with the pressure hotting up.

“It’s another big game on Sunday,” Ryan said. “The race for the title is well and truly on. It’s certainly exciting times at the club.”

Club Brugge lost the last derby 2-0, which was defined as a home game for Cercle although both sides share the same stadium, and Ryan said the Blauw-Zwart are keen are revenge.

“Their fans hate us and ours hate them,” he said. “We’re still feeling the disappointment from the result of the last derby.”

If Club Brugge can catch Standard Liege for the title it would also mean automatic qualification for the Champions League, although second place would put it in the qualifying stages of the premier club tournament.

“It’s the pinnacle of club football, playing in the Champions League,” Ryan said. “It would very intriguing and enticing. It would be a dream come true if we qualify.”

Ryan has enjoyed a magnificent debut season in Belgium since his departure from the Central Coast Mariners and the keeper admits it would be perfect to win the title in his first season at Club Brugge, but it hasn’t happened yet.

“It would mean the world to the players, the fans and the club to win the title,” he said. “Since arriving here nine months ago it’s all gone so quickly. I couldn’t have imagined it to have gone any better so far.”

Ryan is also enjoying himself on the national front after putting in a solid first half shift for the Socceroos friendly against Ecuador last week.

“I got a bit more game time under my belt again,” he said. “In the first half we played some really good football. I was semi-content with what I had to do. We stuck to our game plan.

“I felt fairly confident out there. I just have to concentrate on what I can do. It was another good step for the confidence.”

Ryan empathised with Socceroo goalkeeping rival Mitch Langerak, who was sent off early in the second half of the 4-3 defeat.

“It’s always hard to come off the bench being a goalkeeper,” he said. “I know it’s difficult. The red card was unfortunate for Mitch. It [coming off his line] didn’t pay off for him. I’m sure he’ll have other opportunities.”

The Blacktown City junior revealed that coach Ange Postecoglou spoke to the players after the team’s dinner and was bitterly disappointed with the result of the friendly.

“[But] he highlighted the positives of the first half,” Ryan said. “He wants us to keep believing in his style of play.”