Ryan ramps up bid to repeat Okon's feats

Mat Ryan hopes the UEL clash with AaB can get Club Brugge back on track after a stumble in form (Getty) Source: g

Australia goalkeeper Mat Ryan is banking on Club Brugge using Friday morning's (AEDT) UEFA Europa League duel against Denmark's AaB to reignite its quest for a first league title in nine years.

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With an AFC Asian Cup 2015 winners' medal safety secured and a Belgium cup final against Anderlecht looming next month, Ryan believes more cup success can help restore Pro League belief for table-topping Brugge after three games without a win.

There is also the prospect of duplicating the deeds of former Socceroos captain Paul Okon - a title winner at Club Brugge in 1992 and 1996.

"He's a club legend, was voted the best player in the league, won championships and I'd be proud to follow in his footsteps," said Ryan.

"People still talk about him here and to be put into that type of category would be a huge achievement for me."

Club Brugge, which only leads Anderlecht by a point at the top of the Pro League, holds a 3-1 advantage going into the second leg against AaB, with Ryan adding: "We've been a bit jaded in the last few games and this match gives us a chance to pick up a little bit of confidence again and take that into the league.

"A title has been a long time in coming and we want desperately to do it for our fans."

With the domestic cup final just three days before Australia faces Germany in a glamour international in Kaiserslautern on 25 March, Ryan added: "If we win that one then I guess my celebrations won't be too big."

Ryan is relishing a hectic schedule which has seen him rack up 49 matches in all competitions this season.

"Coming to Europe last season and breaking through so quickly it was a bit busier than an A-League season," he said.

"But now, with me being a regular with the national team, there is no respite at all.

"There are games every three of four days ... it's crazy. It shows that all the doubting and second guessing yourself is worth it when you are playing for big prizes and memories you will cherish."

Ryan said when he first arrived from Central Coast Mariners in May 2013 he doubted whether he would stay the course, explaining: "There are times when you wonder whether it's worth it, being way from home and all the things you take for granted.

"But it's just a case of adapting to the life of being an Aussie footballer in Europe, and now it's just normal to me.

"When I first came to Belgium, I probably wasn't open enough to make friends because I had my mates and family back in Australia and didn't want to replace them.

"But you have to live the experience for what it is. Every time I come back to Australia not a lot changes and when the day comes when I return in maybe 10 or 15 years, I want to look back on my time in Europe without any regrets.

"I hope and believe this is only the beginning for me, and there’s a lot more success around the corner."

Though firmly ensconced as Australia's first choice goalkeeper, Ryan is reluctant to rest on his laurels, adding: "With the Socceroos, I was thrown into the World Cup and was probably a little bit raw.

"I gave it my all but it didn't go as well as I wanted. I've always tried to learn from every game and better myself for the next one.

"There were a few people on my back after Brazil but I am pretty proud of myself for showing a bit of character in bouncing back.

"I was thankful to show Australians at the Asian Cup what I could offer. Our success hasn't really sunk in yet because I haven't really had time to stop and think.

"We achieved something really special; it's the reason why you play the game. You don't play for the money, you play to create everlasting memories and you only do that in teams that win trophies.

"One day I will sit around and reminisce with my mates, but now probably isn't that time."

On the duel with Germany, Ryan said: "When the game was announced the boss (Ange Postecoglou) said what better way to face the world champions as the champions of Asia.

"We're going there with a bit of momentum. If it's me selected I'd be keen to see how I might measure up against Manuel Neuer, who is easily the best goalkeeper in the world right now."

Having been linked with Liverpool during the January transfer window, Ryan is eyeing one of Europe's big leagues as his next destination.

"I want to get the highest level I can," he added. "In the past I've said I was ready for a bigger league but looking back I've learned so much more since then and was bit naive in saying I was ready even a few months back.

"I think I am now ... but there's only one way to find out.

"Firstly, I want to win some trophies in Belgium and who knows what will happen after that."

Source SBS