Fearless Bryan is enjoying his run in the team
IF Bristol City's senior professionals are feeling apprehensive at the prospect of tomorrow's relegation battle against Sheffield Wednesday, young Joe Bryan is positively relishing the challenge.
Apparently unaffected by the tension and loss of confidence that has affected so many of his team-mates this season, the teenage Academy product insists he is "loving every minute" of life at Ashton Gate.
Certainly, a trip to Hillsborough holds no fears for a player, pictured, who has everything to gain and nothing to lose following his swift elevation to the first team.
Make no mistake, this is a game City, and under-pressure manager Derek McInnes in particular, dare not lose. Defeat in South Yorkshire could conceivably cast the Robins five points adrift of safety if results elsewhere do not go their way.
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Bryan's response to a situation that would worry many an older professional is refreshing to say the least.
"It's much better than playing for the youth team on a Saturday morning," reflects the 19-year-old, who has established himself as first-choice left-back in the injury-enforced absence of Greg Cunningham.
"My Saturdays used to be a lot different. There was never any pressure to get a result – it was all about performance.
"We would play in front of a small handful of people and there was none of the build-up you get to a game in the Championship.
"The main focus was on technique and you never played for points."
It is a very different matter for the first team, which is once again waging a desperate fight against relegation at the wrong end of the table.
Yet Bryan appears to be taking the demands of senior football in his stride and, unlike some of his older colleagues, has responded to pressure in a manner which suggests strength of character.
"I'm loving every minute of being in and around the first team," claims the Bristolian. "This is what I've always wanted and what I've worked so hard to achieve since I first came to Bristol City ten years ago.
"Playing for league points is totally different from youth team football and I enjoy the added pressure that brings.
"You could make a goal-saving tackle, clear the ball off the line or make an assist in Academy games and it would go unnoticed. If you do any of those things in the Championship and it helps the team get a result, it means something.
"The way I see it, I've nothing to lose. The more I play, the more I learn and the more I can improve my game.
"Of course we don't want to be in a relegation fight, but I still look forward to every game and every new opponent I come up against."
Bryan has endured a tough baptism of fire, coming up against some of the best wingers in the English second tier in recent weeks.
Following a shaky start, he more or less contained Blackpool's England Under-21 ace Tom Ince at Ashton Gate, before getting the better of Middlesbrough star Emmanuel Ledesma at the Riverside Stadium.
Since then, Bryan has held his own against Brighton flier Will Buckley and, faced with the task of subduing Norwegian international Bjorn Sigurdarson, became one of very few City players to emerge from last weekend's 4-1 thumping by Wolves with any credit.
If selected to play against Wednesday tomorrow, the youngster will more than likely come up against Owls speedster Michail Antonio.