Thursday, 29 November 2012

Richie Ryan

2007 - 08 : Royal Antwerp (Belgium)

Richie Ryan is an Irish midfielder born in Tipperary in 1985. As a youth he spent his school years at Belvedere College.

In 2003 he was brought to England by Premiership outfit Sunderland. In just over two years with the Black Cats, he made 2 substitute appearances in the Premier League.

Sadly, he was released by Mick McCarthy at the outset of the 2005-06 season when he was 20 years old. He spent the next two years at Scunthorpe and then Boston United. At Boston he experienced relegation, and the club went into administration. Ryan left England, intending to return home to Ireland.

Instead he was offered a move to Belgian Second Division outfit Royal Antwerp FC. 

Antwerp are the oldest registered club in the Belgian Football League. Hailing from the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders in Northern Belgium, they have been a member of the Belgian FA since 1895. Between 1928 and 1957; they won four First Division titles and a Belgian Cup. More recent successes have been another cup win in 1992, a Second Division triumph in 2000 and a UEFA Cup Winners' Cup Final appearance in 1993. Despite being one of the country's best supported clubs; for most of its recent history, Antwerp have plied their trade in the Second Division. Known as the Great Old, they play home matches at the 16,000 capacity Bosuilstadion.

For 20 years the club has been a feeder club for English giants Manchester United. As a result, Antwerp have taken many of United's youth players on loan, to afford them valuable experience. Irish internationals John O'Shea and Darron Gibson benefited from this system, Gibson having just returned to United the summer Ryan was signed.

Unlike most other British or Irish players at the club, Ryan was not a United loanee but rather a full time Antwerp player. He signed for the Great Old on July 1st 2007, and his new manager was Englishman Warren Joyce. Also in the squad were Northern Irish players Craig Cathcart and Henry McStay, on loan from United. 

Ryan sustained an injury in his first training session but managed to make his non-competitive début for the club in a 4-0 pre-season victory over minnows Tubantia Borg. In all, he made three pre-season appearances, putting in solid performances. His competitive début came in a 4-1 hammering to Kortrijk on September 30th. 

In all, Ryan made 11 appearances, 3 as a substitute. The season ended in bitter heartbreak for Antwerp, as they reached the promotion play-offs, but were pipped to first place by AFC Tubize, who gained promotion. Ryan's last appearance for the club came in a classic 4-1 away win over KVSK United. His performances all season were encouraging, but in the end he decided to see out his initial plans, and return to Ireland.

Ryan lifts the FAI Cup
The move bore fruit for the young man, as he signed for Sligo Rovers, just was the club were in its ascendancy. In three years and as captain of the Red Army he would win 2 FAI Cups and a League Cup medal. He was also named PFAI Players' Player of the Year in 2010, and was selected for a League of Ireland XI the same year. With the League XI he played Manchester United in front of 50,000 fans at the Dublin Tournament.

In 2012, he signed for Scottish Premier League side Dundee United, and has gone to become a regular fixture in the Terrors squad, wearing the number 10 shirt.

Ryan has become a mainstay at Dundee

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