Northern Ireland hairdresser aims to ensure Liverpool stars a cut above for Champions League final
A Co Armagh Liverpool fan has an extra reason for praying they lift the Champions League trophy on Saturday night - it could be the perfect boost to his hairdressing business if they play as well as they look.
Markethill hairdresser Ryan Cullen has spent the last three years flying back and forward to the north west of England, making sure club captain Jordan Henderson and his best mate, fellow Liverpool star Adam Lallana, look their sharpest when they're on the pitch.
And Ryan (33), who runs Ryan Cullen Hair in Catherine Street, Newry, was back in Liverpool earlier this week to give the England internationals a final trim to make sure that they look their best for Saturday's big final against Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid.
"I suppose I'm hoping they turn on the style the way I turn on the style for them," Ryan told the Belfast Telegraph as he prepared to fly over for Saturday's final.
"I had to make sure they look their best when they lift that trophy!
"Sometimes I still have to pinch myself to keep believing I managed to get this gig.
"When you support Liverpool all your life and you follow the players on Twitter and Instagram, you always hope one of them might like a tweet or maybe even get in touch.
"This all started over Instagram back in 2016. It's a great marketing tool for a hairdresser so I'd been putting a lot of images out there trying to promote the business.
"Adam Lallana noticed one of them and that I was a Liverpool fan. He must have thought my work was decent as he invited me over to have a crack at cutting his hair.
"He's best mates with Jordan Henderson and, as the two of them live close by, Jordan got me to do his as well."
Ryan's been styling the stars ever since and the job certainly has its perks. "They sort me out with tickets whenever I need them - and this weekend my two brothers, a couple of mates and myself are all heading to Madrid. I've been buzzing all week," he said.
Despite spending the last three years as a regular visitor to the homes of the two stars - plus striker Danny Ings, who was at Southampton last season, and another young star, Harry Wilson, who is currently on loan at Derby County - Ryan said he'd kept quiet about becoming the Liverpool style guru out of respect for the players.
"They're great lads and have become great friends. Adam and Hendo like to keep things private if they can. I could have gone to town on the publicity but that wasn't a route I was going to take," he said.
"Now though, we've got past that and they're cool with it all." Henderson and Lallana have both been involved in high profile television campaigns for Nivea face cream and are constantly in the public eye.
"They're very image conscious, like may footballers today," said Ryan. "They always want to look their best as cameras follow them everywhere, so every two to three weeks I pop over to Liverpool to sort them out.
"It's tempting, but I try not to go to a match every weekend. I still have clients to look after. I couldn't head away every weekend and close up."
This Saturday's match though was one he wasn't going to miss.
"The only thing that would make life any better is to see Jordan lift that European Cup on Saturday night," admitted Ryan.
"I've told Jordan that when he lifts that trophy he has to make sure his hair is looking decent.
"That photo's going to be my calling card for the rest of my career!"