We managed to grab some time with Newport County’s newest signing, Ryan Bird, to discuss his journey from non-league to becoming a professional football player and scoring in an FA Trophy winning game at Wembley.
Back in 2013, Ryan Bird was working as an electrician and playing for Burnham FC in the eighth tier of English football. Ryan spent nine years with the Berkshire side, helping Burnham win promotion to the Southern League Premier Division and scoring a remarkable 45 goals in 45 appearances during his last season with the Blues. Bird signed a professional contract with Portsmouth back in 2013 and after several loan spells and stints at Cambridge, Yeovil and more recently National League side Eastleigh, Ryan’s impressive goal scoring ability has secured him a transfer to League Two side Newport County.
Here’s what Ryan had to say about the transition into professional football and the importance of playing at grassroots level…
Your goal scoring record at Burnham was incredible, how are you adjusting to the jump into professional football?
The jump up at first was pretty hard. The quality & fitness is a big difference, so I had to adjust quickly. I often stayed after training & practised certain things I thought I needed to work on. Now I have played professional football for a number of years I am very much used to it all, you have to adapt quickly and work hard to improve yourself otherwise you won’t get picked to play.
Becoming a professional footballer is a dream most non-league players hold, what for you has been the biggest change/perk to signing as a pro?
It changes your life. You are just so happy every day because you are doing a job that you love, not many people can say that. The biggest change is the fitness and diet. I have to watch what I eat/drink a lot more now. I have to treat my body as a temple almost, correct stretching and warm down, ice baths etc. One of the biggest perks I had was that I got to play & score at Wembley, not many people can say that!
Most football teams have an ‘initiation task’ for new players to complete when they first join the team, have you ever had to do anything embarrassing?
Back when I joined Portsmouth, I’d just taken the leap from non-league football up to professional, so it was a little bit daunting anyway, but every new player has to sing. At the hotel on an away day usually, we have to stand on a chair in front of everyone & sing a song, it’s horrible! I have done this a few times now though so I just embrace it & have a laugh. I’ve seen grown men crumble under the pressure many times!
— Newport County AFC (@NewportCounty) January 23, 2017
Who was your football idol/inspiration growing up?
I’d have to say my main idol was Beckham. I don’t play the same position as him, but as an all-round footballer & role model, he is up there with the best of them. The way he handled everything in his career, on & off the pitch was amazing.
Being a striker, my favourite strikers I always watch on youtube now are the Brazilian Ronaldo & Ruud Van Nistelrooy.
Who is the hardest opponent you’ve played against?
I’ve played against so many good teams in my time & there are a lot of good players. But the hardest opponent I’ve played against is Tal Ben Haim. He played for Charlton at the time. He played for Chelsea & captained the Israel national team also. He was so good, I couldn’t get passed him.
What songs are on your pre-match playlist?
I’m really into house music, DJs like Gorgan City, Disclosure, MK etc…
What tips would you give other aspiring footballers?
Never give up, work as hard as you can & always believe in your own ability! Practice as much as possible and always play to 100% of your ability because you never know who is watching you.
Good luck for the rest of the season Ryan!
You can follow Ryan on twitter here: @Ryan7Bird