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Ryan Gyaki Article


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Todd Kimberley

Calgary Herald

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

It's surreal in Sheffield.

So says Ryan Gyaki -- and the 20-year-old Calgarian should know.

The attacking midfielder is vying for a job with Sheffield United, which is celebrating its return to English Premier League soccer for the first time in 13 years.

"Brilliant," murmured Gyaki on Monday from the industrial burg. "More interest, more media . . . there's just a different feel to everything.

"Things have a different look to them. Everyone's a bit sharper. That type of stuff," said Gyaki, now in his third season in the Blades organization.

"It'll be interesting to see when the season kicks in (Aug. 19 versus Liverpool at Bramall Lane), because every person that knows you in the city, now, is gonna be asking for your tickets. It'll be hard to decide who gets 'em."

For Gyaki, the former Calgary Storm wunderkind, now's the time to show his mettle in the British steel city.

During the 2004-05 season, he rebounded from torn abdominal muscles to score all four of Canada's goals during qualifying for the FIFA World Youth Championship.

Those heroics essentially earned him a two-year extension. But while '05-06 was a banner season for the Blades -- second overall to Reading in the League Championship, and belated promotion to the Premiership -- it was a disaster for Gyaki.

After just one game with United's reserves last August, he ripped up knee ligaments and was gone for the entire campaign.

"A nightmare," said Gyaki, the Canadian Soccer Association's top male youth of 2005. "That was a year when when I wanted to step up and get my name out there.

"Now, I'm kind of a year behind in a tougher league, so it becomes even harder to make an impact. So, yeah, this is a huge season for me."

The big question -- can Gyaki crack the United roster and make his Premiership debut?

The young Calgarian takes a realistic approach. He knows that heading out on loan to a Championship or Division One squad is far more likely.

"I'd love to be playing that first game against Liverpool in the Premiership, but I see that being very difficult with the amount of talent there is at the club right now," said Gyaki.

"We've got (32) professionals on the roster . . . someone needs to get injured, or go away on international duty, to give me that opening. I'll need a little bit of luck."

Tommy Wheeldon, the Calgary coach who helped get Gyaki signed to Sheffield United, figures a loan arrangement is nearly imperative.

"Strange things happen in soccer. He's the fittest he's been for a long, long time, and he's got a great attitude," said Wheeldon. "But he needs league experience before he gets thrown into the fire.

"That's what I'd like to see, and I believe (United manager Neil Warnock) would like to see that too."

It's been five years since Gyaki was discovered by a Sheffield United scout in Cuba while touring with a Calgary selects team.

"At least being put out on loan gets you playing in front of people. After being out for a year, I've missed the excitement of playing a game that means so much to so many people.

"But it's a long season. One minute you don't know where you're going, and the next minute you can be on top of the world. In football, things can change in a week, right?"


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