Ryan Mason believes he can inject fresh impetus into Tottenham’s title challenge as they enter a crunch period in the season.
Mason enjoyed a superb breakthrough campaign under Mauricio Pochettino last year, establishing himself at the heart of Spurs’ midfield and earning an England debut against Italy just less than 12 months ago.
Knee and ankle problems, however, have restricted his contribution to Tottenham’s surprise title push and he has been forced to watch the likes of Eric Dier, Dele Alli and Mousa Dembele flourish in his absence.
But Mason could yet play a crucial role in Tottenham’s run-in. With Dembele nursing a groin strain, Tom Carroll out with an Achilles problem and Alli now being deployed further forward, Mason was handed only his second start in three months against Fiorentina in the Europa League on Thursday night.
The Enfield-born 24-year-old took his chance with an energetic display, which saw him open the scoring with a composed finish in the first half and then almost grab a second with a stunning volley late on.
His performance will have come as a major boost for Pochettino too, who now has three games in six days to negotiate, starting with Swansea on Sunday followed by derby matches against West Ham and Arsenal.
While Dier and Alli have already racked up 80 games between them this season, Mason has appeared in only 15 and he believes his fresh legs can be a valuable asset in Tottenham’s hunt for silverware.
“That’s the way I’m looking at it,” Mason said.
“At this stage last season I remember it does get physically and mentally quite tiring.
“I haven’t played that many games so I feel fresh, I feel good, and hopefully I can make an impact.
“I’m fine, the team is doing well and that’s the main thing at the end of the day.
“I’d have liked to have played more, but I’m fit now and the season isn’t over yet so hopefully I can kick on.
“There are some massive games coming up. Obviously it’s disappointing some players are injured, but hopefully they can come back soon and if I’m called upon I can do well.”
As a youngster coming through the ranks at Tottenham, Mason was considered more of a creative force, valued for his touch, vision and artistry, but last season alongside Nabil Bentaleb it was his battling qualities that stood out.
Dier, however, is a more pragmatic partner than the Algerian and it was clear on Thursday that Mason felt the freedom to break forward and exploit his attacking instincts.
“I think Eric brings a lot to this team,” Mason said.
“He brings solidarity, he’s a very good player and when I play with him it gives me that extra freedom to push on because I know he’s going to be there. I enjoy playing with him.”
Spurs can go top with a victory over Swansea this weekend, while there is also the chance to press home their advantage in the race for the top four as Manchester United and Arsenal play each other also on Sunday.
Pochettino’s men currently sit second in the table, two points behind Leicester with 12 games left, but Mason insists nobody is getting carried away.
“We’re up there at the minute, but we know football is a funny game and things can change,” Mason said.
“We’re focusing on every game as it comes, enjoying the moment and hopefully we can keep it going on as long as possible.”
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