Mat Ryan, Crawley and the Chile connection

A Socceroo goalkeeper brought up in the Chilean style will attempt to thwart La Roja at the World Cup on Saturday morning (Australian time).

Mat Ryan doesn’t hail from Chile or have South American heritage, but for a large part of his life he has been mentored by a man with a deep knowledge of Chilean football.

John Crawley, Central Coast Mariners’ goalkeeping coach, spent six years immersed in the country’s footballing environment.

The 42-year old has mentored Ryan since he was 14, from Blacktown to the Mariners, and has been the formative goalkeeping influence on the Socceroo custodian.

The pioneering Crawley was the first Australian to play in Chile and spent time with Colo Colo, the nation’s biggest club, along with Lota Schwager and Magallanes.

He may not have cracked the big time with the club but the experience had a big impression on him which he carried to his coaching days.

It all began when a chance South American tour as a NSW schoolboy in 1989 ended with Crawley staying in Santiago.

“Whilst we were in Chile we had a game against the youth team of Colo Colo before a sellout crowd,” Crawley said.

“It was a big thrill, I managed to play all right I guess and I got invited to stay back.

“It was March 1990 when I finally went over there to stay.

“I had almost six years there with the first-team, on loan to two second division clubs and then back to the first team.

“My time there, I learnt a lot there, I didn’t get much game time. Looking back I didn’t get anything really, at best I was on the bench.

“In the end I probably didn’t develop as much as they would have liked as a foreigner at that time, but in terms of my coaching I learnt a lot about one-on-one saves, how to distribute a ball and those sorts of things.

“I think it’s certainly rubbed off on goalkeepers I’ve coached over the years, namely the Federici’s off the world, Maty Ryan, Danny Vukovic and Andrew Redmayne to name a few.”

Crawley enjoyed his time in Chile and it came during a very successful period for Colo Colo.

The club won a series of nation league titles and the Copa Libertadores in 1991, becoming the first Chilean club to do so.

“The first year I was there I really got wind of how important it was,” Crawley said.

“It was 1990, we had a really good squad and we got knocked out of the semi-finals by Vasco de Gama and I remember the change rooms the next day. It was distraught, it wasn’t a very nice place to be in.

“The very next year we got a new coach in, a Yugoslavian by the name of Mirko Jozic, and with basically the same team in 1991 they won the Copa Libertadores.

“One game for me really sticks out and it was the semi-final against Boca Juniors at home.

“I was sitting in the stands and there were 70,000 people. I still remember the goals, I still remember the euphoria and the excitement and the way the team played.

“You just knew we were going to win because we had the team that went so close the year before. We won 3-1, it was just an unbelievable feeling.”

The Socceroos face Chile in Cuiaba in their first World Cup match. Many have tipped this as the game that Australia needs to either secure a draw or win if they are any chance to progress into the next round.

“When the draw came out I knew people were going to say that, but it’s probably a fair call, a fair argument,” Crawley said.

“But when you look closely at what Chile can do, what they have done in the past, they’re a good team and they are little athletes.

“They might not look dangerous in terms of their physique and different things but they don’t stop, they press all over the park.

“It’s got to do with Marcelo Bielsa, who was the coach at the 2010 World Cup and his style of football.

“I’m told when he left the national team, the national team performance kind of went down a little but the gentleman they’ve got there at the moment as the coach, he’s an Argentinian and disciple of Bielsa and basically they’re back to where they were before.

“They’re just running machines and technically very good and that’s going to stand them in really good stead in a place like Brazil where it’s going to be really warm. The Chileans will make it very, very difficult for us.”