Ryan reflects on 'frantic' Genk move


WATCH Mat Ryan LIVE on beIN when Genk plays Astra Giurgiu in the Europa League next Friday


Genk was midway through its Belgian First Division match against Waasland-Beveren, when new signing Mat Ryan answered the phone.

Due to the midweek match being a catch-up game pre-dating his January transfer window arrival, the Socceroos goalkeeper was unable to play. 

It is the quirk of a strange eligibility rule that finally provided the 24 year-old an opportunity to reflect on a hectic two weeks in which he has traded Laliga club Valencia for Genk, uprooted his life in Spain, relocated to Belgium and already played two matches for his new club.

“The whole situation was a little bit strange,” Ryan said. “It was the first time I’ve ever moved in January. I had one training session before my first game then I am out there playing.”

“My team’s actually playing now and because it was a rescheduled game from before January, I wasn’t able to play so I’m sitting here watching them play at the moment.

“It’s nil-all with 15 minutes to go so it’s an important one. I’m sort of sitting on the edge of my seat trying to cheer them and, obviously, speak with you. “

Ryan elaborated on a ‘frantic’ experience he’s still getting his head around.

“It’s all crazy you have to pack, you have to get going, to leave the apartment, pack all that up, clean it up.

“You have a flight first thing tomorrow morning. Then it’s train, sign a contract and you’re there playing. It’s all a bit frantic. That’s one way to describe it.  

Genk ended up drawing the match with Waasland Beveren, leaving it two points adrift of the sixth and final championship play-off spot, with four rounds remaining.

Ryan, whose eye-catching performances for Club Brugge from 2013-2015 led to his move to Valencia, will be a key factor in his new club’s title push. His experience will also be crucial in the UEFA Europa League, where it takes on Astra Giurgiu in the Round of 32 next Friday. 

He said returning to Belgium to play for a different club had been made easier by the Brugge fans.

“I have a lot of history with Brugge, but everyone’s been supportive of the decision via social media and that sort of thing.

“That’s what I was hoping - for them to understand the decision that I took to come to Genk in order to get the gametime to  help my career get back on the right path.

“There was a little bit of interest there from Anderlecht which is a bigger rival than what Genk is. Genk and Brugge actually have quite an ok relationship. I mean, they’re two big clubs so there’s a rivalry there but Anderlecht and Brugge is a different thing.  

“When it got leaked in the media that it was possible Anderlecht was an option I copped a few messages on social media from the Brugge fans who weren’t too happy with the speculation.

“In the end it worked out for everyone that Genk turned out to be my best option. People from Brugge are quite pleased that I didn’t end up at Anderlecht.”

Ryan said he felt more comfortable in Belgium than Spain, where the language barrier, lifestyle and competition for places had made the transition unexpectedly difficult.

“It did present me with a couple of challenges that I hadn’t faced before. When I made the transition from Australia to Belgium, there’s quite a good level of English in Belgium and football took off from the moment I arrived,” he said. “When you’re missing family and all those sorts of things, when football’s going well it’s a good sort of cure. It covers those things like homesickness.

“In Valencia, the language barrier was more of an issue. It was a transition to another world. While the countries in Europe are all very close together the way of life is very different in each country. Spain is very typically relaxed and ‘tranquillo’, as they say.

“Things can be a little bit frustrating when you want to get things organised and get things done and they have the approach where ‘oh yeah, I’ll do it tomorrow’. 

It’s a transition Ryan will have to again come to terms with when he returns to Valencia at the end of the season. In the midst of a six-year deal at the club, he admitted he hasn’t given much thought as to his club future, preferring to concentrate on the now, having been ushered straight into Genk’s starting side.

“I’m really eager to test myself at the highest level always,” he said. “Staying in a league like Spain where you get those tests week in week out against some of the best players and teams in the world would have been nice, but it wasn’t meant to be.

“I’m happy to come back to a league, which I knew previously from my time at Club Brugge - a very competitive league in Europe with Genk still alive in the Europa League.

“There is plenty of football and it’s exactly what I needed and what I was looking for.

“I was earning more (at Valencia) than what I was at Brugge but I was a lot happier and content with how my career was going when I was in Brugge and playing.

 “When I go out on the pitch whoever it is shooting the ball at me, it’s my job to stop them. Whether it’s Ronaldo or Messi or someone here in Belgium. “