• Albion Must do Everything in Their Power to Keep Hold of Maty Ryan

    Maty Ryan became the first Albion player to be named PFA Premier League Player of the Month for his exploits in the Seagullsí goal during October. The Australian keeper edged out such luminaries as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Anthony Martial and Fernandinho to scoop the coveted accolade. It came after he kept clean sheets in all three games as Chris Hughton's side took a maximum nine points during the month and soared up the table. It is now imperative that the club pulls out all the stops to keep this prized asset out of the claws of hovering vultures.

    Reports have already linked Ryan with a move to Man Utd to replace David De Gea, who is out of contract in the summer. The Red Devils are having an indifferent season, but remain one of the world's biggest clubs and the Socceroo would surely find his head turned if a bid comes in. Ryan displayed humour and humility as he played it down last week.

    ďRumours float around all the time,Ē he said. ďIf Iíd actually played for every team Iíd been linked with through the years, I would have represented Real Madrid, Liverpool and quite a few others by now. Itís not something I think about, although itís hard to ignore it completely when all your family and friends are messaging you to see whether itís true. All Iíll say is this: I love doing what Iím doing and where Iím doing it.Ē

    That is extremely refreshing for Albion fans to hear. Ryan has been a revelation since joining the club last year and he is displaying the sort of form that previously saw him tipped to become one of the best goalkeepers in the world. In October, he faced 17 shots on target against West Ham, Newcastle and Wolves and he maintained a 100% save percentage. The likes of Marko Arnautovic and Felipe Anderson were constantly thwarted in that West Ham game as the visitors enjoyed 65% of the possession and piled on the pressure, highlighting Ryan's importance to the team.

    The Seagullsí Premier League success thus far has been based on two things: defensive solidity and the goals of Glenn Murray. Ryan is a vital component in our defensive prowess, and Albion have been rewarded for taking a punt on him. The 26-year-old began his career Down Under before moving to Belgium to play for Club Brugge. His superb form saw him scouted by Liverpool, but he eventually moved to Valencia in 2015. He was tipped for greatness and Real Madrid were indeed linked with a move, but injuries and misfortune derailed his career in Spain. He was low on confidence, as he was largely reduced to cup appearances and he kept goal on the fateful evening when Barcelona thumped Valencia 7-0, resulting in humiliation for then manager Gary Neville.

    Yet Chris Hughton put his faith in Ryan, who joined for a club record fee at the time, and the results have been excellent. He had to quickly adapt to a new style of play and he was thrown in right at the deep end. Ryan is not the tallest of goalkeepers, but he is blessed with exceptional agility, his handling is good and he commands his area well. It is a testament to his ability that Man Utd have apparently made him their number one target to replace De Gea, ahead of Hugo Lloris and Kasper Schmeichel. But it makes a lot of sense, as Ryan is only 26 and still has more than a decade at the top. Goalkeepers do not typically peak until they hit 30, so he has plenty of time to continue improving.

    The Premier League is an extremely competitive league and a teamís momentum can be dashed in the blink of an eye. Since Ryan inspired Albion to three consecutive victories, they have suffered a 3-1 defeat at Everton and then lost 2-1 to struggling Cardiff on Saturday after Dale Stephens was sent off in the first half. We are still sitting pretty in mid-table, but you can never get too comfortable in this league. However, if you take a look at the lines at https://www.sportingindex.com/, you will see that we are still not expected to be one of the three to go down this season.

    Albion finished 15th last season and fans can legitimately hope for an ever better finish this time around. We look an all-round better team than Huddersfield, Cardiff, Fulham, Burnley, Newcastle, Southampton and, drum roll, Crystal Palace, and we deserve to sit above all of those teams in the betting.

    Chris Hughton is tasked with establishing Albion as a fixture in the top flight, and this has to be accomplished before anyone seriously starts to think about a top half finish and, even European competition. To reach those lofty heights, we need to keep hold of our best players, and Ryan certainly falls into that category.

    He signed a five-year deal last summer, so is well protected by that contract, but the club might well look to offer him an improved deal with a significant pay increase. Such a move would send out a message that he is not for sale, and cement Albionís status as a serious club that plans on sticking around in the top flight for a long time. It would also reward Ryan for his efforts to date. Christian Walton is performing admirably on loan at Wigan, but he is not yet ready to seriously challenge Ryan for his place, so Albion should do everything in their power to keep him out of the clutches of others.
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