The Blacktown City sports center in Sydney’s western suburbs is half a world away from Al Jannoub Stadium in Doha. There, Mat Ryan will manage the Socceroos at their third FIFA World Cup in two weeks, but it is at the ground formerly known as Gabbie Stadium in Seven Hills that he learned the trade from it.
“When the first team trained on the same nights that we trained with the U14s, 15s and 16s, they were always in awe,” Ryan told SBS Sport from his home in Copenhagen.
But there was a time when Ryan’s future was in doubt. After winning the U14 premiere with Blacktown City, it was questionable whether Ryan would be signed for the next season. “There were some hiccups along the way,” Ryan said, “There were a couple of years where my choices and what weren’t were questioned.
“I managed to overcome all the obstacles and get the nod every time, that was a big part of my development.”
A teenage Mat Ryan on duty for Blacktown City. Source: Delivered
Mark Crittenden is now Blacktown City’s world-class director of football and coach. He took charge of the U15s back then and it was Crittenden who was instrumental in keeping Ryan at the club. “I always thought he had leadership qualities there, it was something different about him,” Crittenden said. “Yes, he wasn’t the best, but he gave 100 percent, he had a big heart and he was a leader, I liked that about him.
“Luckily we kept it and the rest is history.”
Luke Roodenburg is the director of football for Blacktown City and a former player with over 200 games for the club. He was captain first class when Ryan made his senior debut, just a few years after questions about his future were resolved at just 17 years old. “He played without fear,” Roodenburg said.
“He entered challenges, he went out to clubs and he had a really deep voice, so even at such a young age he was in command of that box.”
And to Roodenburg, Crittenden and everyone associated with Blacktown City, Ryan’s rise from under 11 to captain of the Socceroos comes as no surprise, they are a beacon,” Roodenburg said. “And he was, he’s a great shining light.”WATCH all the matches of the FIFA World Cup 2022ᵀᴹ LIVE and FREE on SBS and SBS On Demand. Follow us on SBS Sports for the latest promotions and updates on the diverse offerings on SBS Sports , , Y .