Wit’s new Goalkeeping acquisition has had an interesting career thus far, having travelled quite extensively. Started his career as a school boy at Sheffield United and played at Swansea City, Wrexham, Santos and now settled in at Bidvest Wits – he’s had quite the interesting career. Dirk Vale was lucky enough to have a chat with him.
Dirk Vale (DV): Firstly thank you so much for agreeing to this interview with us! You’ve had an interesting career, having played in numerous divisions across Wales, England and South Africa, what have been the biggest differences between the leagues for you?
Ryan Harrison (RH): The biggest difference is the physicality; in Europe the game is so much more physical than the game here. The game in SA slower but most definitely has a lot more raw talent and skill that cannot be taught.
DV: Was winning the LD Vans Trophy the highlight of your career thus far?
RH: I would have to agree with you. I was only 19 at the time and we played at the Millennium stadium, so for a keeper at such a young age to be involved in something like that was a special achievement and then to go on to win it. Enough said really.
DV: Having started your career at Swansea City, how far has the club come since you were there?
RH: The club has come a long way in all aspects of the game; it’s always been a huge club with huge support. Much of the ground work to project the club to where it is now was put in place whilst I was there, they built a new stadium and signed top players most of which are still there.
DV: What are your aims for the current season?
RH: Unfortunately we aren’t in any of the cups and I really wanted to push for a medal this year. The only one that’s left is the league and that seems to be out of our reach now too, so we must consolidate by finishing as high as we can.
DV: Having played in England, which of the current Bafana Bafana keepers can you see successfully making the move to that league?
RH: All of them have the ability to be top keepers but if I’m honest unless the keepers here do a lot of growing up they won’t last long in England. Most need to get in the gym because as I said before it’s a much more physical league. There is a lot of play acting and crowd pleasing that goes on that would be frowned upon, for example making an average save look like a top save. Most of all, which I see often, goalkeepers here seem to always point blame even when the blame lays at their own feet, something else that would not be accepted.
DV: Who are and were your influences as a goalkeeper?
RH: The two main influences were most definitely my father, Mark, and Everton legend Neville Southall. Now I have my own desires and drive to succeed – I’m a winner at heart and that is what pushes me on a daily basis. It breaks my heart just to lose in training… I have to say Andre Arendse is the one keeping me on my toes, he is a breath of fresh air when it comes to a GK coach.
DV: You recently started Ping Soccer with Matthew Pattison, please tell us more about this project?
RH: Yes, Ping Soccer is a new initiative for the youngsters of SA. Me and Matthew sat down a good few months ago and started talking about it and about giving back to the sport that we love and have been fortunate enough to do well in. We will be offering additional coaching to their current regime, we are not a club and we are not trying to take players away from their local clubs. Just give a helping hand. We really feel with our experience from Europe and SA we can offer the best of both worlds. What better way to give back than to the future stars of SA football?
DV: Since you’re into developing local football, what do you think is the most important thing that needs to be done in local football?
RH: We believe that the coaches at grass roots are getting a raw deal, we don’t think they are getting the correct coaching and being given the appropriate tools to produce top players. We often see young players come to our first team who are raw and still need to be taught the basics of the game and that’s where we feel we can step in and help. Nutrition is another big part to the modern player’s game so we have set up for a nutritionist to come and talk to the players that register with us, she will be in once a month.
DV: What other sports hold your interest?
RH: I must say I eat sleep and breathe football but I am a closet Stormers fan and always look out for their results.
DV: Moving back to South Africa, what for you was the biggest adjustment?
RH: The biggest adjustment has been the weather – when playing it can be energy sapping and it has been tough to get used to. I found the pace of the game here slower which was also something I had to adjust to quickly.
DV: What has been your favourite stadium to play in?
RH: My favourite stadium has to be Cape Town stadium. I love everything about it, the stadium, the look from the inside and out, and the way it looks in the evening, the situation and most importantly the pitch.
DV: Who has been the most difficult striker you’ve faced as a keeper?
RH: In South Africa it has to be Pirates striker Collins Mbesuma he has the lot in my opinion, he’s strong and quick. He has good feet and one hell of a strike; he seems to be able to get a shot off out of nowhere and is also very good in the air, which is a complete nuisance for us keepers.
DV: Who’s the biggest talent as a footballer that you’ve played alongside?
RH: Without a doubt it’s Wayne Rooney. I had a short spell at Everton when I was younger and he stood out so far in front of everyone it was unbelievable.
DV: Thanks so much Ryan, good luck for the run-in and the remainder of the season!