EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – El Paso Locomotive FC midfielder Richie Ryan is one of the team’s most experienced leaders on the pitch.

Ryan’s 19 year professional soccer career is just the result of the sport surrounding him back in his home country of Ireland.

“Soccer back home is life for a lot of people,” said Ryan. “You don’t have much choice but to love the game and grow up playing the game with your friends on the streets and just learning from playing football everyday so yeah just great experiences growing up and that is what made me fall in love with the game.”

Ryan’s love for the game saw him excel at the youth level and managed to secure him his first professional soccer contract with Sunderland AFC in the English Premier League in the 2003 season.

“It was huge for me to get the opportunity to go to a club with the stature of Sunderland,” said Ryan. “It had a lot of young Irish players there, so I sort of felt that would make me feel less home sick being away from home at 16 years of age and they were brilliant for me with regards to settling in and showing me how everything works and how to become a professional.”

“It is great memories when I look back to signing my first professional contract with Sunderland and that was the start of the journey that has taken me to a lot of places around the world.”

Ryan’s time at Sunderland didn’t go without some early learning pains as a pair of hip injuries troubled him and led to his departure from the club.

“I wouldn’t say I adapted properly when I was there, I wasn’t as professional as I should’ve been,” said Ryan. “I think the game has changed a lot now since back then and players look after themselves very professionally when they are injured and If I could change one thing that probably the thing I would’ve changed from when I was with Sunderland in my career.”

Ryan went on to continue his professional career playing with seven different clubs spanning across England, Ireland, Scotland, and Belgium.

Ryan then moved to the United States and joined then NASL club Ottawa Fury for the 2014 season where they reached the finals. Ryan also played with USL Championship club FC Cincinnati, before they made their debut in Major League Soccer (MLS) in 2019.

It was then in 2019, when former El Paso Locomotive FC head coach Mark Lowry called for Ryan’s services in El Paso.

“It was a very easy decision for me to make to come down here and play for Mark [Lowry],” said Ryan. “and to be part of a new club and to help the club grow.”

Ryan was part of Mark Lowry’s Locomotive squads that saw a lot of success from 2019 to 2021.

Along with all the success on the field for the 37-year-old he also found some off of it.

“I think El Paso when we came here first it is a unique place with fantastic people,” said Ryan. “El Paso over the last nearly four years has become home for me and my family, kids have grown up the last four years here and they are in school now and the wife is happy so if they are happy I am happy.”

Ryan now looks to take all of the knowledge he’s gained throughout his legendary professional career and pass it down to the future generation of players at the club.

“It is part of the role that I have,” said Ryan. “It is difficult moving away from home for younger players so part of my job is to try and help them adapt and settle in well off the field so that they can play to their full capabilities on the field.”

You can catch Ryan and El Paso Locomotive FC back in action this Saturday when they take on Oakland Roots SC at Southwest University Park at 7:30 p.m.