Ryan Mason has said that the tough experiences he had during his footballing career and his coaching career after his retirement have prepared him well for the responsibility of taking over the reins at Tottenham.
Reports indicate that Tottenham’s number one managerial target is Julian Nagelsmann but Daniel Levy has made a brave call by sacking Jose Mourinho and installing Mason as the interim coach to help the club see out the rest of the season.
Mason, who was previously the club’s head of player development (Under-17 to Under-23), is a relatively inexperienced coach and is set to become the youngest ever man to be in charge of a Premier League match when Spurs face Southampton this evening.
However, the former Tottenham midfielder has no doubt that what he has learned over the past few years will hold him in good stead for the role he has now been handed.
He told Football.London: “What I went through was huge. I represented my country on the football pitch, which is huge as well. I had to deal with an injury, a moment of health where there were a lot of difficult moments, but to play in the Premier League, to get to that level, to play for your country, it takes a lot,” he said.
“That was my preparation [for this], my whole life, I’ve been preparing for moments and you can only know how you’re going to react to moments once you’re in them.
“You can do all the preparation in the world but until you’re in that moment, then you’ll know. The most important thing, for me, has always been my attitude, my family, the people that care about me, the people around me that have been so humble and have helped me along all the difficult moments I had as a player.
“Then, obviously, having to retire as well. Which was a massive thing, but I just think the way I live my life, the way I think, I want to be positive, I want to be happy, I want to have experiences that I look back on when I’m older and enjoy the moment and work hard.
“Obviously, all the moments I’ve had in the last probably 10, 15 years as a player, maybe they’ve shaped me to where I am today. There’s obviously a lot of work to be done, there’s going to be some moments as well but listen, I feel good, I feel comfortable, I feel in a good place and hopefully that can transmit to the players.”
Mason certainly would not have envisaged being in charge of the Spurs first-team when he was forced to retire from the game after suffering a nasty head injury four years ago.
It is certainly a big moment for the 29-year-old, who came through the ranks at Tottenham, and he credited Mauricio Pochettino for bringing him back to Hotspur Way in a coaching capacity following his retirement.
“It was very, very tough retiring. It’s tough at the best of times, that’s well known. Any footballer retires at 34 or 35 and it’s difficult. Nothing can prepare you for it,” he said.
“The most important thing that I had was that I was fighting for something else. My main priority was to get my health back. I had my family around me and my partner had just had a baby. It put into perspective that some things were the most important in life.
“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do initially. I loved football, that’s all I knew. The club were great with me, John McDermott, the previous gaffer Mauricio Pochettino who was in charge at that point welcomed me back.
“I came in and got a feel for it and things just evolved. In the last two and a half years I’ve taken the U17s, U18s, U19s in the European competition, I’m involved with the U23s as well, so it’s clear that I want to be a coach. Yes I do.
“I respect the fact I’m young but I want to learn. Timescale, I don’t know but at the moment I’m preparing a massive football club and a group of players to win a game of football.”
Mason admitted that it would have been even more special to have the Tottenham faithful at the ground cheering on the side in his first game in charge but insisted that the players are fully focussed on getting three points today.
“My job is to prepare a team to win a game of football. I know what it is like having the fans with you. I have felt it as a player – that energy is just incredible, it’s so powerful.
“Unfortunately, at the moment we don’t have any of them in the stadium, but I want a Tottenham team to make our fans proud so they enjoy watching us.
“Football for a lot of people is everything they have in life. To watch their team play, I want them to be proud and I want them to be invested, and I want the players to feel that energy as well.
“Obviously they are not in the stadium now, but when they do come back in, this football club needs to feel that energy, That’s how we work; that’s who we are.
“In terms of players [I will use], all I can do is pick a team to win a football match. The group that trained today and the group that trained yesterday and the group that trained today, their attitude was excellent and over the next 12 to 14 hours the decision will have to be made.”
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