Ryan Edwards

by | Feb 9, 2022

Latching onto Sean Clare’s backheel to drive the ball into the back of the net, sparking an eruption of maroon and white inside Hampden, Ryan Edwards stood less than 40 minutes from legendary status.

Though Odsonne Edouard’s double gave Celtic the last laugh and the 2019 Scottish Cup into the bargain, the fact that Edwards had even been in the position to make such a contribution was notable in itself. Had you asked Hearts fans less than a month before who they imagined would make the cup final squad, never mind scoring the opening goal, very few (if any) would have even thought of Edwards, let alone allow his name to pass their lips.

That’s because when Hearts dispatched Inverness in the semi-final the previous month, Edwards had still to make his competitive debut for the club.

Football can be a volatile industry and few players will be as well-versed in its unpredictability as the diminutive Aussie. Born in Singapore to an Australian father and Singaporean mother, Edwards started his youth career with the Australian Institute of Sport before moving to England in 2011 to sign for Reading.

Having returned to Australia to spend the 2013-14 season on loan with Perth Glory, where he made his professional debut and played 15 times, a 20-year old Edwards was surprised to find himself part of Nigel Adkins’ first team plans as early as the following season when he started 10 of the Royals’ first 14 competitive fixtures.

“I came back on loan from Perth and Adkins threw me straight in. I started every pre-season game and then a week later he started me in the first game of the season in the Championship and I was absolutely buzzing. I came back from the loan with a goal to make it into the first team, I didn’t know how soon it was going to happen. Then it happened straight away, I was happy, I kept working hard and I ended up playing a few games.”

Despite the positive start, by the time Adkins was sacked in December 2014, Edwards had already made what proved to be his last appearance for the club when he was subbed at half-time in a 3-1 defeat to Brentford. Out of favour so soon after a surprise run in the first team and unable to force his way into the plans of Adkins’ successor Steve Clarke, Edwards left the Madejski Stadium at the end of the season, eventually moving north of the border to sign for Alan Archibald’s Partick Thistle in September 2015.

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Although it was March 2016 before he started to hold down a regular place with the Firhill club, having made his debut the previous October, Edwards went on to enjoy the first truly settled period of his career, making a total of 107 appearances and scoring eight times. However, when Partick were relegated via the playoffs at the end of the 2017-18 season, he called time on his three-year spell in Maryhill by invoking a release clause in his contract ahead of a move to Tynecastle in early June 2018.

A busy box-to-box midfielder with a considerable engine on him, Edwards’ arrival at Hearts was generally well-received by supporters at a time when the team badly lacked energy and dynamism in the middle of the park. It was surprising, therefore, that by late August, Hearts fans were still waiting to see Edwards in competitive action. Though competition for first team places was also increased by some of Edwards’ fellow arrivals that summer, most notably Steven Naismith, there was even more head-scratching when, shortly before the summer transfer window closed, it was announced that the Aussie would be joining Alan Stubbs’ St Mirren on a season-long loan.

Despite being faced with even more uncertainty when his first training session coincided with Stubbs’ sacking (ironically after a 4-1 defeat to Hearts), Edwards went on to feature 14 times for the Paisley side. That his most noteworthy moment as a St Mirren player occurred off-the-field – a tweet celebrating Adam Hammill’s long-range goal against his parent club which went down worse than a misplaced pass with some sections of the Hearts support – was perhaps not the most glowing indictment of his loan spell, which ended prematurely in January.

Though he returned to Hearts eager to break into the first team picture, Edwards’ prospects of appearing in maroon seemed to be evaporating with each passing week. By April he was a forgotten man, which made his inclusion on the bench for the last Edinburgh Derby of the season at Easter Road the most surprising and inexplicable reappearance of an Australian since an amnesiac Harold Bishop returned to Neighbours thinking he was a Salvation Army worker called Ted.

With more familiar midfield operators Olly Lee and Oliver Bozanic also among the subs that day, it was a further surprise when, in the 65th minute with Hearts trailing 1-0, Edwards emerged from the dugout ready to replace fellow debutant Connor Smith.

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Pressing and harrying from the second he stepped onto the park, the Aussie’s presence injected a much-needed sense of urgency into Hearts as they chased an equaliser, which eventually came courtesy of Uche Ikpeazu in the 84th minute, and though the big striker took the headlines, Edwards’ game-changing performance was the real talking point among supporters. The reward for his efforts was a starting berth in the next two league games – at home to Kilmarnock and away to Aberdeen – before replacing Olly Lee in the 12th minute of the final league game at Celtic Park.

Though he would ultimately come away from the end-of-season showpiece at Hampden with just a runners-up medal, his inclusion in the starting line-up, not to mention his opening goal, looked to have capped an unlikely but remarkable turnaround in his fortunes at the club, at least in the eyes of the supporters, which made the decision to release him that summer all the more bemusing.

Considering how wild the recruitment has been in the post-administration era at Hearts, to be considered one of the most bizarre signings of that period is no mean feat. For a player to stake such a strong claim for that label and still place in the top half of a recent survey conducted by this website ranking those signings from most to least successful, is an even more damning indictment of the overall quality in the field.

Yet that is what Ryan Edwards represents: an enigmatic episode that said more about the people who brought him to the club than it did about him as a player.

An encounter as brief as his brush with immortality.

Position Central Midfield
Nationality Australian
Place of Birth Singapore
Date of Birth 17 November 1993
Signed On 6 June 2018
Signed From Partick Thistle
Signed By Craig Levein
Competitive Debut v Hibernian (A)
28 April 2019
Left Club 23 July 2019
Destination Burton Albion

 

Season League S Cup L Cup Europe Total
2018-19 4 1 5
Total 4 1 5

 

Season League S Cup L Cup Europe Total
2018-19 1 1
Total 1 1
Season Team Appearances Goals
2012-2015 Reading 10 0
2013-2014 Perth Glory (loan) 15 0
2015-2018 Partick Thistle 107 8
2018-2019 Heart of Midlothian 5 1
2019-2021 Burton Albion 90 9
2021- Busan Ipark 16 0