Ryan debunking the EPL's height obsession

Based on traditional stereotypes, Australia's Mat Ryan is a wee bit short to stand between a set of Premier League posts.

Goalkeeper Mat Ryan isn't letting a lack of height stop him reaching the peak of world soccer.

Goalkeeper Mat Ryan isn't letting a lack of height stop him reaching the peak of world soccer.

The English preoccupation with height has long driven the discourse about who can and cannot be a successful goalkeeper in a league still popularly equated with veritable giraffes.

Standing next to his top-flight contemporaries, the 184cm Ryan is undoubtedly on the diminutive side.

In fact, the 25-year-old Brighton and Hove gloveman is the shortest of all shot-stoppers who've featured this season (he's got 1cm over Arsenal's designated cup 'keeper David Ospina).

Being tall has its perks, but the size of the goals doesn't change from country to country.

Ryan on the rise in Premier League. Pic: AAP

And while Fraser Forster's 201cm frame gives him enviable reach, the Southampton custodian's stats suggest it's not the most pertinent measurement.

Other more important gauges might be timing, distribution and agility - all Ryan's fortes.

From his seven starts, the western Sydney native has made 19 saves, the same as Petr Cech (196cm) and Simon Mignolet (193cm).

His two clean sheets sit further down the ladder, but his nine goals conceded is smack on average (ninth) and not bad given Brighton sit 14th with two wins.

It's taken time to adapt to the Premier League's physicality, distinct from the technical traits of Spain's La Liga.

Yet in some ways its beastly built backs may be playing to the advantage of Ryan, who posits the height fixation is mainly perception.

"I've been saying to my mum and my agent, I don't feel my height has had an effect at all because it's all just a decision-making aspect of the game," Ryan said.

"They tend to sit a lot deeper in England and the physicality is a lot more emphasised with big centre-backs and strikers so I find myself tending to let my back four deal with everything.

"I'm just picking up the scraps of anything over-hit or falling in around my area.

"You look at all the other goalkeepers in the league and there have been times when they've struggled with crosses as well, when they want to come too often or make wrong decisions or get themselves into challenges with strikers and defenders.

"That's when you can get into trouble and it's part of the decision-making process. If you're not 100 per cent sure you're going to win the ball you should stay out of it.

"That's one thing I've had to adapt to being in England.

"Another thing is the defensive line being so deep. When a shot comes long there always seems to be someone blocking the view or in the road, so my reaction time needs to be quicker."

By his own admission, Ryan's England career has been a baptism of fire, and not everything has gone Brighton's way in their top-tier return.

But the past month has brought progress.

And when you've stared down the barrel of the Messi/Suarez/Neymar triumvirate on the wrong end of a 7-0 scoreline, life can seem a little brighter in Brighton.

On the evidence of Ryan's classy display against Arsenal last week, it's not hard to see why the former Central Coast Mariner remains Chris Hughton's preference over highly rated Dutchman Tim Krul.

His outstanding reaction save to deny Aaron Ramsey with his foot was the highlight as he frustrated Alexis Sanchez, Alexandre Lacazette and Alex Iwobi despite the 2-0 loss.

Krul's deadline-day Seagulls signature was predicted as a major concern for Ryan, whose club-record arrival was supposed to guarantee minutes following a frustrating Valencia stint in the shadows of Brazil custodian Diego Alves.

Ryan insists it's changed nothing, only offered another source of motivation, much like the presence of fellow Socceroos goalkeepers Mitch Langerak and Danny Vukovic.

In the national team, his role in Thursday night's 1-1 World Cup play-off draw in Malaysia can't be underestimated; a stunning injury-time save denied Syria what would have been a hugely controversial first-leg winner given the penalty that came before it.

Ryan put a string of similar second-half clutch efforts down to a recent rise in confidence.

"When you're in the rhythm and feeling confident, it just all seems to happen a little more naturally for you," he said.

"I definitely feel that's been the case the last month since the last international break.

"I'm getting more rhythm in my game now and things are starting to happen a little bit more naturally, as opposed to the start of the season when I was trying to think a little bit more and find my feet.

"Football is always the most enjoyable when things are coming naturally and you're letting your instincts take over."

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