IIn 2019, Andrew Redmayne made me coffee. I was at Sydney FC’s training base waiting for some pre-season interviews when the goalkeeper caught me trying to use the club machine and stepped in. He said he took the barista course about three years ago, because he was tired of football and ready to retire at 27 to work at a friend’s cafe.
At the time, he was playing for Crosstown rivals Western Sydney Wanderers and was in poor shape. He certainly didn’t falter, and the mere thought of his selection for the national team was absolutely ridiculous – not to mention saving a penalty kick to send his country to the World Cup. Relegated to the bench for no particular reason and slandered by many fans, everyday life took its toll.
Redmayne’s original career plan was to gamble through college and then become an elementary school teacher. But when he began to dread the idea of football, he calmly spoke to his wife and financial advisor.
“I started,” he said that day in the coffee machine. “It was financially feasible to only work in one of my colleagues’ cafes and do university by day and maybe just NPL by night. I was happy to finish my time at the Wanderers and then go back to Melbourne.
“The confidence came – I didn’t think I was good enough to be honest. It was a very difficult period in my life.”
Redmayne has always had the talent. As a teenager, he tried his hand at Arsenal and was initially offered a youth contract before the club pulled him out and signed young Wojciech Szczęsny instead. So he stayed in Australia, roving from club to club, mostly plagued by self-doubt and harsh comments on social media – ironic given the number of free memes now circulating on the internet.
Something happened the moment he was ready to throw in the towel. In January 2017, he was sent to Graham Arnold Club in Sydney in an exchange deal. The move reunited him with his first goalkeeping coach, John Crowley, the man who also developed Socceroos’ #1 seed Matt Ryan.
In his own retrospective assessment, Redmayne was “trash” at the time. But Crowley helped rebuild it from the ground up. And when the club’s first goalkeeper, Danny Vukovic, moved to Belgium, he took his place.
Then a few more things happened. He started wearing a pink ribbon. He began to impose some penalties. But the most interesting thing is that he started dancing. It wasn’t a great kid’s dance either. Read More Daggy Dad – A loose-headed flail that entertains viewers and confuses rival players. Drawn between you wiggle.
“You’re easy prey anyway, so you can also try to fly I guess,” Redmayne said in early 2019, three months before his tournaments in the penalty shootout that helped Sydney win the men’s first division league final. “I just discovered an error… I didn’t save it [a penalty] My whole career and now I’ve saved four this year. I don’t know what’s up.”
Redmayne has crossed the corner. He was so confident in his instincts he quoted Dolly Parton (“Find out who you are and do it on purpose”). He hasn’t told anyone at the club how close he is to retirement. In May 2019, after Arnold was named coach of Socceroos and took Crowley with him, 30-year-old Redmayne received his first international call-up.
Ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Peru on Tuesday, the 33-year-old played two international matches. It looked like it was going to stay that way until the last moments of extra time – until Arnold bet on his plan.
“Your presence [Peru] Matty thought, I’ve been preparing for it all week [Ryan] Redmayne said after the match. “Dress up, it would have made her explode a little.” Ryan, who was unaware of the secret plan until he was arrested just before the shooting, may have also thrown in.
“I don’t think any of the players were aware of that,” Redmayne said. “A couple lined up at halftime because I did some practice to keep an eye on it. Matty was full of support when he left and just before the shootout he punched me and he hit me… When we got together he said, ‘You’ve got this buddy, all you have.’”
And it was. Redmayne wore gray this time, not pink. But his routine was no less impressive. He waved his arms and swung his legs, smashing the air in a puzzle for Peru’s penalty takers to solve. Louis Advincula hit the post to equalize the Australian team again. After a few penalty kicks, he made the goosebumps to stop Alex Valera’s decisive attempt.
Then Redmayne went viral. It was part rescue, part celebration–not so much a smile, but with wide eyes, mouth open, “Here I am.” In fact, he only stopped instead of running straight on his teammates because the referee told him not to, and predicted that his unorthodox move would likely require a VAR check to make sure it wasn’t out of his line.
Everything was still beautiful. Five years ago, Redmayne wanted to quit football to become a barista. Five minutes ago, he played only one match in all of these World Cup qualifiers – against 168th-placed Nepal. Now he’s an Australian icon. M of international fame. The gray champion who helped Australia reach the World Cup for the fifth time in a row.