RYAN McBride realised his boyhood dream when first signing professional terms with Derry City five years ago, so one can imagine the feeling of pride the Brandywell lad felt when asked to lead his hometown team out for the 2015 season.
For many young footballers in Derry, the ultimate dream is to play for one of England’s top clubs but for the new City skipper, the height of his ambitions was to don the red and white ‘Candy Stripes’ for the club he has supported as a youngster.
Ryan has watched fellow Brandywell natives, Liam Coyle and Felix Healy captain the Lone Moor Road club through the years as well as current City boss, Peter Hutton.
In fact, his rise to prominence has been rapid since former City boss, Stephen Kenny, was understood to have watched him playing for local junior club Brandywell Harps before elevating him to first team duties in 2011.
Since then, McBride hasn’t looked back, racking up a total of 119 appearances for Derry and netting 10 times from his centre half position!
Four of those goals came during last season’s campaign as he stamped his authority at the heart of the City defence alongside Aaron Barry.
When Peter Hutton approached him about taking on the captaincy and all the responsibility the role demands, Ryan couldn’t hold back his enthusiasm.
At 25 years of age, it was a proud moment for the Bluebell Hill Gardens lad.
“It’s an absolute honour for me to captain my hometown club this season,” he said. “It’s a dream come true after playing with the club for so long now.
“I’ve played five years at Brandywell since Stephen (Kenny) brought me in and I haven’t looked back. I don’t want to set the bar too high, I just want to do my best for the team week in week out and try and push the team forward.
“Other footballers have dreams of going across the water and playing for Man United and Celtic but my dream as a boy was to play for Derry City and that came true.
“So you can imagine how it feels for me to be named Derry City captain this year. It’s great! I’ve been going to the Brandywell to watch Derry for years. I’ve watched Peter play, Eddie McCallion, Liam Coyle. So even to play for Derry City is a great honour but to captain them is even better.
“Peter came to me two weeks ago and called me into the office and asked me if I would like to be captain and I naturally jumped at the chance.
“I think before he even got the words out of his mouth I said ‘aye’,” he laughed. “I was absolutely over the moon.
“I would like to thank him for the opportunity to show what I’m all about.
For a former Derry City skipper and, indeed, the club’s longest serving player to bestow the honour on him made it even more special.
Ryan hopes to pick the brains of Hutton but he is confident, as the second oldest player in the squad, he can offer his own leadership qualities.
“I would like to thank Peter for giving me this opportunity and I’ll do my best for Derry City,” he promised. “I just can’t wait until the season starts at this stage so I can lead the team out.
“I’ll be asking Peter questions about his captaincy,” he said. “Peter’s been a great servant to the club through the years, he’s a legend and if I can follow in his footsteps in any way, I’ll be delighted.
“I’m not as good a player as he was, but I can only try my best.”
So what kind of captain can we expect this season?
“Off the pitch, I’m quiet, I work in a bar and just get on with things,” he explained. “When I’m on the pitch it’s a different story, I switch on and then I’m in game mode.
“I would always talk more on the pitch than I would off the pitch. I’ll try and be more vocal. That’s the main thing. I hope to talk to the younger players and help them understand the game a bit better.”
With the club’s leading goalscorer, Rory Patterson left for pastures new and both Michael Duffy and Patrick McEleney on trial at Brentford, does he believe the current Derry City squad can compete with the best teams in the League of Ireland this season?
“If Michael and Patrick do leave then Derry will have money to spend,” said Ryan. “If they don’t go then we have two great players for the season ahead. We’ll just have to wait and see how it goes.
“Of course we’ll miss Rory Patterson’s goals. With Philip Lowry in there with a full pre-season under his belt, he’ll score goals for us. He’s a great box-to-box player and scored plenty of goals for Linfield.
“We’ve got Barry McNamee in there too who can score goals and Ryan Curran coming through. But if we could keep hold of Michael Duffy, he scored 20 odd goals last season, so I think we’ll be okay.
“I hold the view that we’ll do well this season. We have a great squad. I’m the second oldest in the team at the minute and I’m only 25 so that says a lot.
“We have plenty of young boys coming through which is a good thing. They can step up and show what they’re all about. ”
Having reported back for pre-season training last Friday for fitness tests, Ryan is anxious to get back to doing what he does best this week.
“I haven’t kicked a ball since the FAI Cup final so I’m glad to be back playing this week,” he said. “I did my fitness test on Friday and everything was good. I feel good myself so I just can’t wait to get back at it.”
For Derry boss, Hutton, Ryan “epitomises everything you want in a captain.”
“He’s a local and very much committed player,” said Hutton. “He’ll go through a brick wall for you. He looks after himself, he’s a great role model for the younger players around the team and he’s Derry City through and through.
“I consulted with a few people about the decision. I spoke to Gerard Doherty, who was very much in contention for the role and Gerard agreed with me that this was a great opportunity for Ryan to progress and develop as a player.
“So we’re delighted that he’s accepted the captaincy.”