Mason: I could have left but I wanted to play for Spurs so badly
22:30 28 September 2014
Tottenham’s Ryan Mason reflects on the journey that led him to his first ever Premier League start in Saturday’s north London derby against Arsenal.
It is incredible to think that when Ryan Mason first appeared for Spurs, against NEC Nijmegen in the Uefa Cup in November 2008, Harry Redknapp had just replaced Juande Ramos.
A 17-year-old Mason came off the bench in place of David Bentley in the 90th minute, joining the likes of Chris Gunter, Jonathan Woodgate and Didier Zokora on the field for the final few moments.
Aaron Lennon was the only other Tottenham player that day who is still at the club. And, since then, Spurs have changed their manager three times while gradually replacing virtually every member of the squad.
Young players have come through - Danny Rose, Steven Caulker, Andros Townsend, Harry Kane and Nabil Bentaleb have all progressed from the academy to become first-team players.
However, Mason was virtually forgotten, making just three more appearances for the Lilywhites in almost six years after being loaned out to Yeovil, Doncaster, Millwall, French club Lorient and Swindon. But that has all changed this week.
There were signs in pre-season that 23-year-old Mason could finally be about to get his big chance at White Hart Lane – Mauricio Pochettino picked him in his starting line-up for three successive friendlies against Toronto, Chicago Fire and Celtic, alongside Etienne Capoue in central midfield.
But, after a career that has been blighted by injuries, Mason was ruled out of the final warm-up game against Schalke and had to watch the start of the season from the side-lines.
It was another unfortunate setback but he was registered in Tottenham’s Premier League squad when the transfer window closed, and the big moment belatedly came on Wednesday night against Nottingham Forest in the Capital One Cup.
With Spurs trailing at White Hart Lane and potentially heading for a third successive home defeat, Mason came off the bench and promptly hit a 30-yard equaliser, sparking the comeback as Tottenham triumphed 3-1.
Then, on Saturday evening, he finally made his first ever start in the Premier League, being thrown in at the end deep end away against Arsenal in the north London derby – and acquitting himself admirably in athe 1-1 draw.
Mason admits there have been times when he has questioned his future at the Lane but insists he never gave up on his dream of becoming a regular for Tottenham.
He believes the key to his breakthrough has been his decision to put extra work in during the summer – and the arrival of a manager who has spotted what he can bring to the team.
“It’s been a massive week for me with three games in five days,” said Mason. “I played with the reserves on Monday, then made my first appearance of the season against Nottingham Forest in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday and then started against Arsenal, so it’s a bit surreal.
“We did some shape work on Friday and he stuck me in so I found out then [that I would be playing in the derby]. I was buzzing and couldn’t wait for the game.
“I struggled a little bit to get to sleep - I struggled after the game on Wednesday as well - but I think I’ll sleep well now. I got quite a few tickets, some of my family were there so it was good. It was a massive game and it was good to get a point on my full Premier League debut.
“Did I ever think I might have to leave the club? Obviously there have been times when I have questioned it but I wanted to play for Spurs so badly that I never really wanted to leave.
“The change in manager helped me. If previous managers were still in charge maybe I wouldn’t still be here. There were a few opportunities [to leave] but I was raring to give it a go and see what happened, and hopefully it’s paid off.
Mason added: “With the change in manager in the summer I made sure I came back fit. I was just in more often than I would have been in previous summers. I didn’t really have a break. I wanted to make sure I came back in the best shape possible.
“There were a lot opportunities because a few of the World Cup players were missing. I got a bit of game time on the tour and felt like I did well so I was pleased.
“I was in a pretty good position and then I got a bit of a niggle. But that’s in the past, I’m not really thinking about injuries at the moment.
“I thought the manager’s appointment was promising. He’s the type of gaffer where if you’re training well and doing well then you’ll play.
“That’s important, especially as a homegrown lad because not many managers put them in and trust them, but obviously this one has.”
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