Our home-grown former midfielder was forced to prematurely call time on his playing career in February, some 13 months after suffering a fractured skull while playing for Hull City at Chelsea in the Premier League.
Always a popular figure among players, staff and fans at Spurs, having been here from the age of seven all the way through to his departure for the Tigers in August, 2016, ‘Mase’ is now starting to explore his options as he considers where he wants to go next in life.
And, happily for the former England international - and indeed everyone at the Club - that includes spending time at our Training Centre as he takes his first steps on the coaching pathway, while also dabbling in the world of media punditry.
“I’m happy, that’s the most important thing,” smiled the 26-year-old as we caught up with him for his first interview with us since his world was turned upside down in January, 2017.
Below: Ryan keeps a close eye on our development squad at Hotspur Way
“I’m alive and I’m happy. It’s a whole new challenge that I’m stepping into now - I’ve done bits of media, I’m doing coaching, it’s just the next step in my career. To be honest I was hoping it would be at 35 or 36 years old but I’m 26, it’s happened, I’ve got a head-start on everyone and I’m keen to make the most of the next 10 years.
“I’ve always been positive throughout the whole injury. That’s the reality. It’s the best way to be - positive. I’m excited for the future now.”
As someone whose life has revolved around football - and indeed Spurs - since his early childhood, it seemed a given that Ryan would turn his hand to coaching after hanging up his boots.
Now kitted out once more in a club tracksuit, he’s thrilled to be back at Hotspur Way on a voluntary basis and gaining experience of practical coaching in the Academy set-up he knows so well, while he intends to work through his coaching badges.
“I’m enjoying it,” said Ryan, who was a member of our 2015 League Cup Final starting XI and in total made 70 senior appearances for us, scoring four goals under Mauricio Pochettino’s tutelage.
“I’ve been in a couple of weeks now and it’s a great thing to be starting the next chapter. I’m fortunate enough to be in a position where the club have offered their help so it was a no-brainer to come back in and at the same time get cracking with my badges.
"At the moment I’m just observing as much as I can. I’ve joined in with little bits and taken little bits as well. I’m doing work with the young boys, with the reserves (Under-23s), with everyone, so I can hopefully pass on my knowledge and help them out.
“I don’t know where I want to go with it yet. If you were to say, ‘would I be a manager?’, I don’t know. I don’t know whether I want to stay coaching kids. It’s just a case of coming in, finding the path and seeing where I want to go with it all but I’m loving it, I’m loving being back out there and being involved with football - especially here as well because it’s all I’ve known for so long. It’s good to be back home.”
Ryan, who recently became a father for the first time, also underlined how he felt it was important not to waste any time following his retirement and move quickly to embark on his next journey.
“I‘ve always stayed in contact with people here,” he explained. “I was at the club for 18 years and even though I left to go to Hull, the club never left me. It’s always been my club, I was always keen to come back and when that opportunity arose it wasn’t a case of thinking that I needed time, I was keen to get back in and get started as soon as possible.
Below: A magic moment - Academy graduates Ryan, Andros Townsend and Harry Kane - plus former team-mate Kyle Walker - celebrate Andros' goal for England v Italy - March, 2015
“I think it was just a case of when (he’d move into coaching) to be honest. As a player, I was always keen on helping the young lads. I had a unique situation of coming through the Academy into the first team and I was always keen to speak to the young boys at the club and try to help them make that step. Obviously it’s come a lot sooner than I expected but at the same time it’s a fresh challenge and I’m just looking forward to hopefully helping people make that next step and become Premier League players.”
As far as our current top-flight stars are concerned, Ryan still speaks of his former team-mates in glowing terms. Commenting on the progress we’re making as a club, he emphasised: “It’s massive. It’s clear for everyone to see - everyone in the country, everyone in football. The impact the club has made on the Champions League has been great as well - I thought they were absolutely fantastic in that run and a little bit unfortunate not to go through but in terms of the Premier League, it’s another successful season, hopefully Champions League football again, the new stadium, the training ground, everything. There’s a philosophy here with the gaffer through absolutely everyone, so there’s definitely a good feel about the place.”