Asian football expert John Duerden has been reporting on Ryan Griffiths for the last decade. And he has no doubt the striker will continue to find the net for Tony Popovic.
There has been plenty written around the world about big name stars going to play in the Chinese Super League.
With players such as Carlos Tevez, Oscar, Hulk, Alex Teixeira and Paulinho possibly featuring in the 2017 AFC Champions League, fans in Australia will get the chance to see some of them in the flesh over the coming months.
But Ryan Griffiths was in China before the league started making international headlines. In the Middle Kingdom, the new striker of Western Sydney Wanderers was doing what he does wherever he goes: scoring goals.
His performances for the unfashionable Liaoning in 2007 and 2008 earned him a move to Beijing Guoan, a club seeking a first Super League title.
Coach Lee Jang-soo paid tribute to his Australian forward just before he was given the boot with weeks of the title race left.
“He works so hard for the team and never allows defenders to settle with his intelligent runs into space. He is composed in the penalty area and is a good finisher but also makes chances for others.”
Griffiths continued to do just that in the title run-in and on the final day of the 2009 season, the capital club was just one of three capable of taking the title along with Henan Jianye and Changchun Yatai.
Beijing showed no final day nerves, defeating Hangzhou 4-0.
The new Wanderers man didn’t get on the score sheet but did make three of the goals. The striker is still very fondly remembered in the Chinese capital for his contribution to the club’s only title to date.
There were then spells back home with Newcastle Jets and then back to China for a time with ambitious second-tier club Beijing Baxy.
Another trip home followed, this time with Adelaide United, before he was snapped up by Sarawak in the Malaysian Super League.
The Crocs are based in Borneo, one of two Malaysian states to be found on the island. It is a two-hour flight to the Malay Peninsula but the fans often make the trip as they are passionate about the club.
There is a long tradition of Australians playing for the club, not a traditional Malaysian powerhouse, with David Evans, John Hunter and Alistair Edwards all turning out for the club in the past.
Again, well-liked by fans, Griffiths did what many foreign players in the country fail to do. He lasted longer than a season.
He scored nine in 20 games in his first as Sarawak finished seventh in the Super League, their highest finish since 2004 (when seventh equalled relegation).
In a league where imports are quickly dispatched after weeks or months, to play two seasons is a success and with his professional attitude and vital goals, the Sydneysider carried on the Australian tradition in Kuching.
Then there was last season in Hong Kong with South China. Griffiths shone in the AFC Cup, the continental competition that features ‘developing nations’, scoring three goals in the group stage as the team progressed to the knockout stage.
After progressing past the second round, South China lost 3-2 on aggregate to defending AFC Cup champion Johor Darul Ta’zim, the dominant club in Malaysia and one of the best in south-east Asia.
All in all then, Griffiths returns down under as a player with immense experience in Asia and no little success.
Everywhere the 35 year-old has played, he has scored. In short, one of Australia’s most successful exports to Asia ever is coming home to Sydney.
This article was originally published at: http://www.a-league.com.au/article/why-new-wsw-signing-ryan-griffiths-is-a-hero-in-asia/lti4w65zezyr1vrorftdjh5rd