Sydney FC defender Sebastian Ryall credits coach Frank Farina with not only reviving the club’s A-League season but with jump-starting his stuttering career.
The 23-year-old has been with the Sky Blues since 2009 but spending time away with the Olyroos last season made it difficult to cement a first-team spot under Czech coach Vitezslav Lavicka.
He made the starting line-up just two times last season and played only 15 games all up.
This year, he’s been a regular starter and featured in all but one match so far.
Ryall says he has a new lease on life with Farina at the helm.
“If you compare from last year, it’s been a massive turnaround,” he said after training on Tuesday.
“I never really got the opportunity to play under Lavicka and it’s been really refreshing to have a new coach come in who has a new attitude towards training and everything.
“It’s always frustrating to be left out so, when you do get a chance to play, it’s just about enjoying it.”
Since taking over in round nine, Farina has guided the side to four wins and turned them from a team who, at their lowest point conceded seven goals, into one that managed to reverse the score with a 7-1 thumping of Wellington last week – the club’s biggest win.
While victory over the bottom-placed Phoenix might not be the biggest of tests, Sydney appear to have come a long way since being humbled 7-2 by Central Coast in November.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for him (Farina) to come in and turn things around,” Ryall said.
“We were really struggling … things didn’t look bright.
“But you just look at training today and everyone’s happy and working hard for him.
“Things really feel like they’ve turned for the better.
“He just has a different mentality.
“He says to us before every game ‘there’s things you can control in a game. You can always run and chase down and tackle’.
“That’s something we’ve really applied and we’re a much fitter team now as well.
“Over the Christmas period, we didn’t have a single day off for four weeks and I think that’s really starting to show.”
The Sky Blues have posted back-to-back wins for the first time since round three and a triumph over Melbourne Victory on Saturday would give them their longest winning steak this season.
But consistency has eluded Sydney and Ryall feels last week’s result will count for nothing if they can’t back it up.
“This week is going to be a massive game,” he said.
“If we lose, then a lot of that work will go out the window so we’re very focused and we’ll definitely be up for this match.
“It’s Australia Day and it’s the first time Alessandro (Del Piero) will be down in Melbourne so it should be a really good game.”