Upon finishing their A-Level exams, most 18-year-olds are anxiously awaiting results day to see if they have achieved the grades needed to be accepted into their chosen university. But that was not the case for Ryan Binns. As soon as he had finished his exams, he knew exactly where he was going and it certainly was not university.
“It was almost random the way I ended up in Sweden,” says the now 22-year-old. “Through business connections my father’s company had in Sweden, we were invited over there to have a family holiday. With the trip being in the middle of the English pre-season, I arranged to train with a club in Sweden for the two weeks while we were there.
“The club took my details after the two weeks and a couple of months down the line they contacted me asking if I would be interested in moving out and signing for them.
“As soon as my A-Levels were complete I immediately moved out there.”
It was a big step for an 18-year-old to make and he hadn’t always put his football before his education but it was an opportunity was just too good to turn down. In England, he turned down a deal as a full-time scholar at Burton Albion to complete his education, although he continued to train at Burton on an extended schoolboys contract.
“I didn’t sign as a scholar because I wanted to remain in full-time education and study for A levels,” he says. “Although football is my priority, continuing education was very important for me.”
His choice to stay on at college also meant he was eligible for the Independent Schools Football Association (ISFA) under-18 side where he represented his country against Wales, Australia and New Zealand.
Once his education was over, it was time to make the bold step of moving to Sweden and although it initially seemed like formidable task to move away by himself, he soon found himself settling in well at his new home.
“At the start it was daunting to say the least. Age 18, leaving my friends and family, moving to a country I knew little about and knowing nobody.
“However, complete credit to the Swedes, they are extremely nice people and the vast majority of the population speak very good English so it wasn’t as hard as I first thought it would be.
“Now I have been here a while, I met my girlfriend and living with her has helped me to pick up the language quickly and now I am almost fluent in the language.”
Now that he has been in the country for four years, he has settled into the Swedish way of life and has worked out his daily routine around his full-time professional contract with third-tier side Husqvarna.
“A lot of the team have jobs on the side so we have team training in the evenings. I’m usually working on my own game in the mornings, both pitch work and strength training in the gym.
“I also spending time chilling with with my teammates and girlfriend. The city I’m based in is on the shore of a large lake and is amazing, especially now in the summer.”
Binns has spent timing playing in both the third and fourth tiers since his move to Sweden. He initially joined IF Sylvia before moving to Linköping City but it is this season with Husqvarna where he has really stood out.
After making just one start last season, he has started all 13 of his side’s league games this season and has contributed four goals meaning he is currently the joint top scorer for his club as they look to fight off the threat of relegation.
The midfielder has also spent time with clubs higher up the pyramid during his time in Sweden.
“I’ve had a taste of the top four tiers of Swedish football,” he says. “Training with Allsvenskan and Supperettan teams and then playing for Division 1 and 2 teams. At the top it’s a high standard of football, different to the English game.
“The way I feel is that once you make the step from Division 2 upwards, the standard is a lot higher because your playing with players who are looking to make it to the top.”
His current side finished a point above the relegation play-off spot last year but this season currently find themselves in that unwanted spot but with thirteen games to go, Binns’ goals could be the key to survival once again Also vital could be two of the side’s two latest signings, New Zealand internationals Myer Bevan and Joel Stephens. The pair have experience playing in the USL and the A-League between them and Binns was very happy to see them join the club.
“It’s been great having them here this year,” he says. “We’ve developed a good friendship and a great relationship on the pitch. It’s nice to not be the only one in the team whose primary language is English and they are both great guys on and off the field.”
Away from the relegation battle on the field, the 22-year-old has big ambitions for the future but he is also preparing for a career off the field as well, should the need ever arise.
“I’m currently doing a distance learning degree in Sports and Exercise Science at Manchester Metropolitan University and I’m now in my final year of that. It’s nice to sometimes take my head away from football and bury it in a subject that I find extremely interesting.”
“But my main ambition has always been to play at the highest levels of football. I also want to enjoy the journey and continually develop both as a footballer and as a person. I don’t mind how long it takes but I’m determined to make it to an elite level of football.”
“I’ve always wondered what it would be like to play in the Dutch league. I love the technical football they play, so if that opportunity were to arise, perhaps that could be another step up the football ladder.”
Although he certainly seems switched on for a successful future, for now Binns will have to hope his good form for Husqvarna continues as his side look to avoid relegation and make the 21,000 inhabitants of his adopted home proud. Whatever happens though, his family at home can be proud of the life he has built in Sweden and commitment he has shown towards his dream.