This text is based on Ryan Thomas’ interview with official PSV Media
New Zealand international Ryan Thomas has been playing in Netherlands since 2013 when he joined PEC Zwolle. After having good seasons there, he had the opportunity of his life by joining PSV Eindhoven, one of the biggest teams in Netherlands.
After the summer break, he made his entrance at Herdgang – the training ground and youth academy of PSV – in 2018. He soon discovered what it’s like to play at a top club – “The club is bigger in everything. The level is higher, everything is arranged even better for you; that’s really great. If you also look at the talent within the group […] We have so many qualities,” he said.
He started training with the team and people are getting impressed with the quality of the young midfielder from New Zealand. However on August 17 – after just two weeks in training – during a four to four game, Ryan fell down in the field. After an MRI scan in the hospital it was clear: front cruciate ligament torn and he would be able to return to footaball from six to nine months.
It was a shock for Thomas but he kept the optimism – “At first I thought: okay, six to nine months. Then I’m the one who does it in six months“. Optimism soon gave way to frustration and Ryan started to be mentally affected by the situation – “It was so frustrating that my head constantly wanted things my body could not do. It was often a step forward, and two back,” said the 25-year-old midfielder.
“You can safely call his behavior depressed in the period,” said Ryan’s wife Nikky. Facing that situation was more difficult to the midfielder because everything was new to him – a new club, a new city, new teammates – “I can’t say a bad word about the boys in the selection and the staff. Even though I only trained with the group for two weeks, they always made me feel like I could go to them. But I am not really the type that the team looks for boys to deal with outside of football. After a day at the club, I prefer to be with my family rather than visit teammates every day,” he pointed.
Ryan couldn’t really hear about football during the injury and he confessed – “I actually only watched PSV, so I could answer when the coach asked me something“.
Although rehabilitation took longer than expected, Ryan tried to stay more positive – “Nikky (wife) and Lily (daughter) really pulled me out of the valley during that period. And then I was allowed to start training with the ball at a given moment. That was really a moment when things started to look better again“. He started to appreciate small things, such as scoring in a four against four or something similar. Ryan slowly came back to the group and got to know his teammates, the city and the club better and better.
At the beginning of September 2019, more than twelve months after getting injured, the bad time came to its end: he could finally make his long-awaited debut for being the first team of his “new club”.
He played 30 minutes in the 1-0 win against FC Köln in a friendly match and not much later he took a seat on the bench in Eredivisie games. He was allowed to come in five minutes before the end against VVV-Venlo and three weeks later he had the opportunity to be named for PSV’s starting eleven agianst AZ Alkmaar – “Well, AZ home… I was allowed to start in the base due to a number of injuries and suspensions within the team. Fantastic of course. And then that tackle. Well what should I say about it? Have you seen it? It’s just a red card, of course, I can’t help it. It was not my intention, I wanted to put my body in between”. After VAR consultations, Ryan was presented with a red card in the first half after a foul on AZ midfielder Fredrik Midtsjø.
The storm is gone and now Ryan is being an important player for the team. He scored two goals in the last two matches and he assumed that he is happy with his new role as a false attacker alongside striker Sam Lammers. “The place is more attacking than I was used to, but it is going very well. The cooperation with Sam is also going well and for me it is very nice that I have again picked up my goal.”
Thomas is only 25 years old but he is already one of the oldest players in PSV’s squad – “Despite the fact that I am not yet very old, I can also add something to the team in terms of experience. We only have a few guests older than 26, so the team is very young. It is good to have so much talent, but it is difficult to immediately convert that into results and titles. Immediately there is so much pressure on those young boys who already wear our team“.
He has already returned to New Zealand National Football Team as he played one international friendly against Ireland in November. Now it is time for Thomas to retake his important role in the national team and help his country to qualify for 2022 FIFA World Cup that will be held in Qatar.
PSV is currently in the fourth position at 2019-20 Eredivisie and they are still alive in the fight for a spot in the 2020-21 UEFA Champions League.