Ryan Guy: When you would rather just concede the Corner!
I had always taken an interest in League of Ireland football, especially at the start of my teenage years after the foundation of what would be my local club in Sporting Fingal. An FAI Cup win for Fingal in 2009, just fueled my fire and enhanced my passion for what us fans deem as 'The Greatest League in the World'.
Irish football was steadily getting back to its feet after an economic setback just 2 years prior. The development of Lansdowne Road into what would be the new luxurious Aviva Stadium, with a capacity of 51,700 gave some hope for Irish footballing faithful's. So when Manchester United came to town to play against an Airtricity League XI to kick off a new era of soccer in Lansdowne Road, I knew I had to get my ticket!
Sitting in the bleachers of this brand-new, almost perfect stadium you could call it, I was a small bit different from the fans surrounding me. Of the 49, 861 spectators who made their way to this inaugural match, I can firmly say that a majority were supporting the Red Devils, getting a first-hand look at the star players they possessed such as Wayne Rooney, and new signing 'Chicharito'. Me and a small number of others, however, were different. I was more concerned with how Sporting Fingal players such as Shaun Williams and Alan Kirby held themselves on the pitch.
It was the 31st-minute of the game and this Airtricity League XI, built from the League of Ireland's best talents of that season, were facing a 2-0 deficit with Ji Sung Park and Michael Owen grabbing the goals. A seemingly nothing throw-in in the United half, had many fans watch on in amazement. The Long-Throw craze famously brought back to life by Irish international and Stoke City player 'Rory Delap' in the 2008/09 Barclays Premier League season meant teams were now utilizing this often overlooked technique, and this was the exact same for St. Patricks Athletic and their resident throw-in specialist of Ryan Guy, however, there was a twist.
This amazement and disbelief came from the acrobatics displayed by Guy in the run-up to the throw, as he proceeded to complete a somersault before launching a missile into the United penalty area that any hurler would be proud of. An outstanding roar came from the crowd. 'Did he just do a flip?', I overheard someone ask. Well yes he did, I thought in disbelief. I was just as shocked as everyone else, as his unconventional throw-in method even seemed to catch Sir. Alex Ferguson off guard. Guy had made a name for himself on an international stage garnering thousands of hits on YouTube, and even a feature on Goal.Com.
Ultimately though, this was not the first time Guy had done something like this. Ryan's throw-ins had become a sort of a trademark for him, showcasing his agility in League Of Ireland grounds across the country, most notably in the 2010 Setanta Cup Final vs Bohemians in Tallaght Stadium, which of course prompted a cheer from both sets of supporters. Nonetheless, Guy was much more than just a player with an accurate long-throw, his 3 years in Inchicore left him with a cult status at the club, living long in the memory of St.Pats fans, helping them to a second-place finish in both 2007 and 2008.
Guy was born in California to parents of European descent and had always had this drive to play in Europe. His career kicked off in La Costa Canyon High School, where he was twice named as the team MVP, gathering the attention of many college scouts including UCLA and Penn State. However, he chose to stay local, enrolling in the nearby University of San Diego where he majored in Political Science. However, his ultimate passion was for football, playing a vital role for his college side San Diego Toreros from 2003-06. In his sophomore season, Guy earned First Team All-West Coast Conference and 2nd Team–NSCAA All-West Region honours. His standout season came in 2005 when Guy tallied the highest number of assists on the team with six, whilst also scoring a game-winner against Portland and a goal against the sixth-ranked UCLA Bruins along the way.
Source: University of San Diego Athletics
His talent was rewarded as MLS outfit FC Dallas came knocking, selecting him as 22nd overall pick in the 2nd round of the 2007 MLS Superdraft. However, Guy had other ideas, as his ambition to play in Europe due to his descent and his feeling that the MLS was still 'struggling', made him pack his bags to seek a professional contract overseas. He expressed, "Being drafted into the MLS was definitely one of the highlights in my life. When my name was called out to go to FC Dallas I went into a daze. However, the more I found out about how contracts and salaries worked in the league, the more I began to focus on playing soccer professionally in Europe."
The risk paid off with Guy receiving trials for the German side Hannover 96, and also England's Crystal Palace, however, difficulties surrounding a work permit put a dent in this dream Premier League move, stating in an interview with Goal.com, "Even with English heritage, without a passport, I was unable to get a work permit in England...''. Eventually, it was Ireland's St.Patricks Athletic who kickstarted Guy's career in Europe, with this move proving to be pivotal in the enhancement of Guy's play.
The League of Ireland has a known reputation for being tough and gritty, but it can be said that Guy most certainly did not shy away from this challenge. His first appearance came as an 83rd-minute substitute in a 1-0 win over Connacht opposition Galway United. Pats fans warmed to Guy from the start, gaining a reputation as a tricky and skilful American winger, who could also get you a goal, with his first coming in a 4-2 romp over Longford Town.
Probably Guy's most defining moment in a Pats shirt came in 2008 when the Inchicore side travelled to Latvia to take on JFK Olimps in the UEFA Cup First Qualifying Round. Guy etched himself into the St.Pats history books, popping up at the far post to finish home, and thus ending the sides wait for a first-ever European away win, as his solitary goal gave Pats a firm foot in the next round. He spoke about this goal, exclaiming, "Scoring in Europe is probably the biggest highlight of my career to date. The feeling was ecstasy and making a little history for my club made it all the better." Guy took this momentum into the league bagging a hat-trick against Dublin rivals Shamrock Rovers in October, with each game making Guy more and more of a fan favourite.
The American was making a name for himself in Irish football, and deservedly so. The following year of 2009, also brought some great performances from Guy as his European displays, again gave Pats some much-needed momentum in the Europa League, helping them to beat Maltese Champions Valletta F.C. and Russia's PFC Krylia Sovetov Samara along the way, before ultimately crashing out to well-drilled outfit Steaua Bucuresti of Romania. His European displays, along with his consistent league form, finishing the season as Pats joint league top-goalscorer with 6, subsequently earned Guy the St Patrick’s Athletic Supporters Club Player of the Year for 2009.
This took us to 2010, the year of dazzling acrobatics and his involvement with the Airtricity XI. Funnily enough, his goal on the opening day of the 2010 season against Galway United actually gave Guy the honours of scoring the first-ever goal in the newly named Airtricity League since its rebranding from what was formally known as the Eircom League of Ireland. His achievements didn't end there with Guy and his performances earning him a spot on the OT XI compiled by SoccerOverThere.com, ranking his performance relative to his league as one of the best 11 by an American in Europe.
This turned out to be Guy's last season on the Emerald Isle, and with 4 fantastic years to look back on, it is no doubt that Guy left a lasting effect on the League of Ireland, especially for those fans in Inchicore and also the league's unfortunate defenders who had the task of stopping him, often leaving them in a daze, as Guy made 150 appearances in the league, bagging 18 goals overall. He decided to return to his homeland, citing personal reasons, Ireland's economic crisis and the growing status of the MLS as the reasons for his homecoming. However, this was not an easy choice for him, as his appreciation for the club shone through, stating in a farewell message;
“Over the last four years I've had the pleasure of seeing St Patricks Athletic play Premiership sides, host European giants, slay Swedish powerhouses, and travel to the far reaches of the continent.
“I've seen tears of sorrow and joy on the faces of players and fans alike. There have been management changes and more than a few squad changes and I've even seen the odd prank done on members of staff (I won't mention any names, Jim Lawlor).
“But, as it does for most footballers, the time has come for me to say my goodbyes. In all honesty, this last four years at Richmond Park have been the best of my life.
“Inchicore will forever be in my blood though, it's where I was given my start and where I learned the difference between a true Irishman and a plastic paddy''.
Guy wanted to make a name for himself in his native land, and it would be the East Coast where he would get this opportunity, a place he had never previously visited, signing for Boston based club New England Revolution after a small stint at San Diego Flash. It was no surprise when Guy's ability made him flourish in the States just like it had in Ireland, as Guy went on to make 23 appearances for the Revs in his first full season at the club, making 45 appearances in total for the MLS outfit notching 4 goals, including a textbook volley against Real Salt Lake in 2013. He was dubbed, ''A cunning, pacey player who has expended his role with the club in each of his two years with the team … one of the squad’s most versatile players, has seen playing time at almost every position on the field except left-back and goalkeeper''.
His consistent performances in 2012, earned him a call-up to the Guam National Football Team, a country he qualified to represent due to his father who had previously been the Guam Legislature senator. Making his debut in the Philippine Peace Cup against the host country, Guy also featured in the next two group matches against Chinese Taipei and Macau, but could not prevent his side from crashing out. However, for him, it was a ''special experience'', stating, ''I meshed with the guys on my team very quickly. For a second I felt like, ‘Oh my gosh, these are my people,’ which was really cool. That was special for me. I had a really good time and I’m hopefully looking forward to meeting up with them again.”
Guy went on to be a vital player for this tiny Pacific nation scoring 4 goals in total for the national team against Cambodia, the Northern Mariana Islands and a brace against Mongolia, exerting his experience into this emerging Guam side. His most notable achievement for this organized territory of the United States with roughly 160,000 inhabitants came in a 2-1 upset victory over India, a country which holds the 2nd highest population in the world. An incredible accomplishment in Guy's footballing career, with Guam coach Gary White, even asserting, "Our star player is Ryan Guy who was born in the US to Guam parents'', something no doubt Guy was proud to hear.
Guy vs. India, Source: FIFA.com
Since leaving New England in 2013, Guy has played for the likes of San Diego Flash, San Antonio Scorpians (Great name by the way!), Tuen Mun SA in Hong Kong and finally North County Battalion where he served as player-coach for 2 seasons from 2016-18. Ultimately though, it is in the Republic of Ireland and Guam where he made his impact, countries you never thought would be connected. His surfer-boy celebration, throw-ins straight from Olympic Gymnastics and his dazzling skills made Guy stand out from the crop of Irish players. A talented player who many were grateful to have in the league, it's just a shame it didn't last longer.