Life can be tough for a goalkeeper. Mat Ryan seemed to have Brighton & Hove Albion’s number one spot - as well as a reputation for one of the English Premier League’s most reliable custodians - in the bag.
Then came a bolt from the blue and white. The Socceroo shot stopper has not played for the South Coast club, which he joined in 2017, since a 3-0 loss to Leicester City on December 13.
Head coach Graham Potter has made Robert Sanchez the main man ever since.
“The day before the Fulham game, the manager told me he’d be giving the other goalkeeper a substantial run to see how he goes, and would be keeping Jason Steele as his second choice as he likes the way he fulfils the role,” Ryan told The World Game.
“He added that if I get a good offer in January I should take it, knowing that I want to be playing week-in week-out.”
The message is pretty clear: it's time to go.
The timing is not great as the European winter transfer window is a notoriously tricky period - for both players and clubs - to make good, long term decisions.
Given all that, a loan could be the best short-term move for the goalkeeper who did just that in 2017, temporarily leaving Valencia to join Genk in Belgium.
It means that there is no ‘move in haste, repent at leisure’ scenario.
The worst that happens is the 28-year-old moves somewhere and does not play as much as he would like, which would be the case anyway if he does nothing.
A loan could not only give Ryan playing time, and from a national team point of view it is more important that a goalkeeper is getting some action at club level than an outfield player, but could also lead to finding a club and a permanent move.
If not, the deal is only until May when Ryan can look for a new club in the northern summer market when there is more time and many options.
But where to go? Below are five possibilities.
The Bhoys may be having a poor season by their own standards and the uncertainty in goal can’t help.
Conor Hazard has recently made his stake for the starting spot but there is a feeling in some quarters that the 22-year-old is not quite ready to become the undisputed permanent number one.
Having Ryan until the end of the season would give all parties some breathing space and the Australian a fantastic experience in playing for one of Europe’s biggest clubs.
David Raya is in demand and that means the Bees could be in for a new shot stopper. This could be good news for Ryan.
He would be going from a team fighting relegation to one that is looking for promotion and that in itself would be a pleasant change.
Brentford are an interesting club and have a great chance of being in the Premier League next season.
The Gunners are reportedly in the market for a reserve goalkeeper and it could be an interesting destination for Ryan.
North London is not that far from the South Coast and - as he has found out in recent weeks - there is always a possibility that a number two can get promoted.
Even though sustained time on the bench is more likely, there is the UEFA Europa League and an exciting tie with Benfica in February. A short spell with Arsenal would not look too bad on the resume either.
Relegated from the Premier League last season, Watford’s hopes of a swift return had been dented by the broken finger recently suffered by goalkeeper Ben Foster.
He will be out for a while and it could be the perfect opportunity for some first-team action for Ryan in
the white-heat of a promotion battle.
Not just that but Foster, a former England ‘keeper, is approaching his 38th birthday and a good showing from Ryan could earn a permanent deal, if that was what he wanted.
The Edinburgh club have had issues with goalkeepers this season and while they have reinforced, there is nobody at Easter Road with the class and experience of Ryan.
Not only would living in Scotland’s picturesque capital be pleasant, Hibs are going well in the league and are hot on Celtic’s heels.