In an exclusive for English Players Abroad (EPA), Nottingham-born midfielder Ryan Tinsley talks life down under as the New Zealand Premiership heads towards its finale.
At 20-years-old, Tinsley’s career has only just began but he is already a key player for both his teams, Hawke’s Bay United and Napier City Rovers.
Football in New Zealand operates with two league systems. The first, the ASB Premiership, is the national league of the country and runs from November to March. The second is a regional system, featuring four leagues which run between April and August. Tinsley’s sides, Hawke’s Bay and Napier City, feature in the ASB Premiership and Central Premier League respectively.
English midfielder Tinsley first joined Napier City in the regional leagues in 2014 and suitably impressed to join national side Hawke’s Bay for the 2014/15 season.
His goal-scoring exploits from midfield have made him a firm fan favourite at both clubs. EPA caught up with Ryan to see how he had settled into life on the other side of the world.
English Players Abroad: After spells with Leicester City and Nottingham Forest in England, how did the move to New Zealand come about?
Ryan Tinsley: My spell at Forest [ended when] I got released aged 18. I then went on to play for the Nike Academy and after my spell there I went to play semi-professionally for a couple of teams. While playing, I got a couple of emails of interest to play in Sweden and New Zealand. I needed a new challenge and focus after being released from Forest following playing for a top academy and team where a few of my team-mates have gone on to play for Forest and sign for other clubs. I was contacted by Bill Robertson, the player-coach of Napier [City Rovers] and things developed from there, hence my move out here.
EPA: Has it been easy to settle into your new surroundings since the move to New Zealand?
RT: In the first 6 months, I struggled to be fair, because I am a massive family person and I especially miss my younger brother Macauley! I never for one second let this affect my football in any way though. It’s been tough but I felt I needed to get away and have a new experience and here I am, the furthest possible place away from home. Now I’m used to the whole thing about being away from home and I feel settled in and I have met great new friends and a beautiful girlfriend.
EPA: How does the standard vary between the level you play at with Hawke’s Bay United and Napier City Rovers?
RT: There isn’t that much of a difference, it’s just that Hawke’s Bay United are national whereas Napier are just central based. So all Hawke’s Bay games we will fly as New Zealand Football put a lot more money and commitment into the national league. A lot of the players play in both the leagues also.
EPA: What is the biggest difference you have noticed between playing football in England and in New Zealand?
RT: Well it’s a lot hotter, I can tell you that for sure! It took a good couple of weeks getting used to the heat and getting rid of jet lag. I feel personally, in England, the games are a lot more physical. As for New Zealand, there are some very good players. I guess that’s why you see more and more UK players come to New Zealand to play football.
EPA: There are numerous Englishmen playing in New Zealand, why do think so many English players are attracted to the country?
RT: I believe it’s because New Zealand football is becoming a better standard year by year. You just have to look at Auckland City. They have just finished 3rd in the World Club Cup. What an achievement that is for New Zealand [football].
EPA: You’re having a pretty successful 2014-15 season with Hawke’s Bay United, on both an individual and team basis, how do you feel the season has gone so far?
RT: For my debut season in the National League, I believe it is going rather well. We are currently in the play-offs in 3rd position and I am joint third-top goalscorer in the league with 7 goals from midfield. I feel fitter than I ever have. Since being in New Zealand I’ve had to become a lot more mature as a player because with having a professional background, coaches expect me to stand out and be a leader – they say age means nothing. As for my Napier City Rovers season, I was second-top goalscorer in the league with 14 goals and won the golden boot for my team from centre midfield.
EPA: Who is the best player you have ever played with or against in your career so far?
RT: The best player I’ve played with would have to be Lewis McGugan or Patrick Bamford when I was at Forest. The best player I’ve played against would be Lucas Piazon.
EPA: Finally, what are your future ambitions? Are there any others countries that you hope to play in?
RT: am still only 20-years-old still so hopefully I can still get back into the professional game again, and [then] get to the highest level I possibly can. I am young, fitter than ever and still believe in my talent and that this [playing professionally] can still be achieved – maybe in England, where I believe I am capable of playing in the English divisions. It’s all about luck. Being spotted at the right time and, of course, being good at the sport I love helps a lot. Maybe [I will stay] in New Zealand [and get up to] as high level as I can go or even in other countries. We will just have to see what the future holds.