Why Brighton keeper Maty Ryan deserves greater respect from Albion fans

First things first – Maty Ryan is not, as some Brighton fans would have you believe, pony.

Goalkeeper Maty Ryan has received plenty of stick from Brighton fans this season
Goalkeeper Maty Ryan has received plenty of stick from Brighton fans this season

With some of the criticism being thrown the way of the Albion’s number one, you could be forgiven for thinking that Graham Potter was playing a genetically engineered goalkeeper created by scientists combining the worst bits of Graham Smith and David Gonzalez

Since Ryan arrived from Valencia for £5 million in the summer of 2017, he has saved Brighton far more Premier League points than he has cost, writes Scott McCarthy, of wearebrighton.comIn the 2017-18 season, you could count his ‘bad’ games on one hand – Manchester City at home and Crystal Palace away.

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His last minute penalty save to earn a point at Stoke City will be long remembered by everyone who was at the Bet365 Stadium that day.

Three months later and he made an astonishing stop which defied the laws of physics during the 0-0 draw at Burnley.

In October 2018, Ryan became the first and so far only Brighton player to win a Premier League PFA Player of the Month Award, beating Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Fernandinho, Ross Barkley and Anthony Martial to the prize.

He made the most saves of any goalkeeper in the top flight that month, recording three clean sheets which delivered three consecutive 1-0 wins and nine very welcome points for the Albion.

Brighton survived relegation by two points at the end of the 2018-19 season. You can do the maths.

The Premier League is a ruthless world however, particularly for a goalkeeper. When you are a side in a relegation battle as Brighton currently are, you need your number one to be performing at the top of his game.

Even Ryan’s biggest fans would have to admit he is struggling at the moment.

There is no shame in that. At some point in their careers, even the very best goalkeepers in the world suffer a loss of form. If it can happen to someone like David De Gea, then it can certainly happen to Ryan. It does not make him a bad goalkeeper.

What it does mean though is that Ryan should be taken out of the firing line. He is currently conceding routine shots which he should be keeping out.

This has led to the tide of supporter opinion turning against him so much that the blame for goals which are plainly not Ryan’s fault is being laid at his feet too.

See Jannik Vestergaard’s header for Southampton, which could only be down to Ryan if you expect your goalkeeper to start claiming crosses miles from his goal in no man’s land.

Ryan looks like a man who would benefit from a spell out of the team. Brighton look like they would benefit from having a goalkeeper with a little more confidence.

And Albion supporters might realise that Ryan is not the man responsible for all the Seagulls’ current woes.

Who takes over from Ryan is another question entirely. Some Brighton fans seem to be confusing Robert Sanchez with the second coming of Christ, as opposed to a 23-year-old who made one save against Tottenham Hotspur.

Sanchez clearly has promise, but to pitch him into a Premier League relegation battle when he has played one game in his life above League One level would be a bold move from Graham Potter.

If things did not work out and the Albion end up sinking further towards the bottom of the table with Sanchez in goal, then it could sap his confidence and have a potentially detrimental impact on his future career.

The answer probably lies with Christian Walton. After spending the past five seasons out on loan, Walton was all set to challenge Ryan for the number one jersey this year until an untimely pre-season injury.

He has played a couple of games for the Under 23s and once up to speed would seem the obvious choice to replace Ryan. Having worked his way patiently around the country with a variety of clubs from League Two to the Championship, Walton deserves his chance.

Walton is big, commanding and a good shot stopper. He has all the tools needed to take over from Ryan.

If it happens, that does not make Ryan a pony goalkeeper. For all he has done for Brighton so far, Ryan deserves more respect than the slander he is currently receiving.